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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Scandal At Americorps II

There are now only two options to this story. First, we have a senile IG who is seeking retribution for being fired for perfectly acceptable reasons or we have a president that fired the Inspector General to protect a crony and then smeared that same IG to cover it up. Either way, this needs to be fully investigated.

Last week, I wrote about the firing of of the Inspector General of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Gerald Walpin by President Obama. The firing appeared peculiar on several levels. First, it appeared that the firing was sidestepping a law that the Senator Obama helped to craft. This law called for the notice of firing of any Inspector General to be given to Congress 30 days prior to being implemented. It furthermore called for there to be clear just cause. When Walpin was fired, Congress was neither informed nor was any cause given but that Walpin had "lost the confidence of the president".

Second, at the same time that Walpin was being fired, he was investigating Kevin Johnson, current mayor of Sacramento and former Phoenix Sun. Walpin had uncovered that Johnson's charity, St. Hope Academy, had misused Americorp funds. The misuse included paying Americorp staff to drive Johnson around and help with campaign duties (while Johnson was still running for mayor). Then, a deal was reached between Johnson, the U.S. attorney in that district, and Americorps, in which Johnson agreed to only pay some of the money back AND Johnson would remain eligible for future grants. This is important because 1)normally in such a case the offending party would be denied further funds for obvious reasons and 2) as mayor of Sacramento he would be eligible for a great deal of such money. Finally, Walpin was kept out of the loop of this deal.

At the same time, Walpin was also investigating misuse of Americorp funds by the teaching fellowship program at CUNY (which ironically enough is his own alma mater). In that case, he found and uncovered a multitude of grant violations, including criminal background check lapses and “pervasive problems of eligibility, timekeeping, and documentation.” The head of this CUNY program is Alan Solomont, a mega Democratic fundraiser.

Enter Claire McCaskill, Democratic Senator from Missouri, McCaskill not only stipulated that the Obama administration didn't follow the law he co sponsored and she lead in writing, but she demanded a fuller explanation for the firing than 'he lost the confidence of the president".

So, last night the White House laid out a much more detailed case for the firing.

Removed after unanimous request from the AmeriCorps board of directors At May, 20, 2009, board meeting Walpin "was confused, disoriented and unable to answer questions and exhibited behavior that led the board to question his capacity to serve."

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California complained about Walpin's conduct to the IG oversight board and alleged he withheld exculpatory evidence.
Walpin had "been absent from the Corporation's headquarters, insisting uponworking from his home in New York over the objection" of the board. He "exhibited a lack of candor in providing material information to decision makers."

He "engaged in other troubling and inappropriate conduct." He "had become unduly disruptive to agency operations, impairing his effectiveness."

Now, the White House is catching up on this story. Walpin, for his part, has been all over the media. In interviews I have seen, he certainly doesn't appear to be the senile individual that is implied by the charges. (his portion starts at about 3:30)

He has also denied all the charges.

That's a total lie," Walpin said of the latter charge. And he said the accusation that he was dazed and confused at one meeting out of many was not only false, but poor rationale for his ouster. "It appears to suggest that I was removed because I was disabled -- based on one occasion out of hundreds," he said.

"I would never say President Obama doesn't have the capacity to continue to serve because of his (statement) that there are 56 states," Walpin said, adding that the same holds for Vice President Biden and his "many express confusions that have been highlighted by the media." Obama mistakenly said once on the campaign trail that he had traveled to 57 states.

Most of the charges are vague and with little detail. Some of the charges are nonsensical. The Inspector General is the watchdog of Americorp. That he has butted heads with its board is a sign that he is doing his job vigorously. You want an IG that has a combative relationship with the organization they watch over. That's the nature of the relationship. If most of the folks within the organization want them removed, that's likely a sign they are doing their job vigorously.

If allegations from U.S. Attorney and the board are true, there should be plenty of documentation to back them up. What exculpatory evidence did he not share? What 'material information" did he not share? To simply state all of this without providing further evidence is simply unacceptable.

The implications here are enormous. This is the sort of scandal that can end a political career under the right circumstances, and well it should. If Walpin's allegations are true, then the president removed a watchdog to protect his cronies, did outside of the very law he helped craft, and then smeared said watchdog in order to cover it up. This story needs to continue to be investigated and we must get to the truth. I will stay on it.


Rick007 said...

What the hell is wrong with trumping up ficticis charges to get your way? Look at Pelosi!

Rick007 said...

Isnt this the second time he used this BS excuse to get rid of someone that he didn't agree with????