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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gerald Walpin Vs. President Obama

Recently fired former Americorp IG has filed suit in federal court demanding his job back.

Gerald Walpin, the AmeriCorps inspector general who was summarily fired in June amid controversy over his investigation of a politically-connected supporter of President Obama, has filed suit alleging that the firing was "unlawful," "politically driven," "procedurally defective" and "a transparent and clumsily-conducted effort to circumvent the protections" given to inspectors general under the Inspectors General Reform Act of 2008.

Walpin's suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is against the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps. Also named are Nicola Goren, the acting CEO of the Corporation, Frank Trinity, its general counsel, and Raymond Limon, the Corporation's "chief human capital officer." The suit asks the court to declare Walpin's firing unlawful and restore him to his position as the Corporation's inspector general.

Despite my title, President Obama is NOT named in the suit. His spector will no doubt surround the suit and everything related to it. Walpin worked as the Inspector General for Americorp. He investigated former NBA basketball player, Kevin Johnson, for a charity that was tied to Americorp. According to Walpin, the folks at Americorp were non too happy about the investigation. Then, the U.S. Attorney made a deal with Johnson that Walpin didn't sign onto. Furthermore, Johnson was running for mayor of Sacramento, and now he is, and the investigation threatened Johnson's ability to receive stimulus money.

The politics surrounding this case are of course the juicy part of the story. Yet, I believe there is an overriding story here that everyone should pay attention to. That is the treatment of whistle blowers. Whistle blowers are on the front lines in society's battle against corruption. Anytime anyone blows the whistle against corruption they immediately put themselves squarely in the crosshairs of forces much more powerful than themselves.

That's exactly what happened here. Once Walpin moved forward with the investigation against Johnson, he immediately found himself in a battle with Johnson, Americorp, and any and all their allies, including the White House. Much like many whistle blowers, Walpin was smeared, his reputation sullied, and ultimately lost his job. That our society allows for whistle blowers to be mistreated so callously speaks to how our society feels about corruption.

It's possible that everything that Americorp and the Obama administration say about Walpin is true, however it's difficult to know because they make vague statements without offering much back up. It is also telling that Walpin is willing to go onto any media that will have him while the White House, Americorp, and Kevin Johnson remain largely silent on the matter. For a whistle blower the media are often their best friend. The only way to insure that retailiation doesn't spin out of control is to keep the story alive. In such cases, sunlight really is the best disinfectant.

It's also very troubling the manner in which the Obama administration has dealt with this case. The way in which any administration, on any level, deals with corruption is of utmost importance. That the Obama administration not only sided with Americorp over the whistleblower but immediately had him fired speasks for itself.


Here are some other stories of whistle blowers and the retaliations against them. Dr. Blake Moore reported on a nurse at his hospital, Williamsburg Regional Hospital, that was acting as an "angel of mercy" and eventually the entire state of South Carolina did all they could to ruin his life. Jim Singer reported on serious malfeasance within Pennsylvania's Department of Child Welfare and he lost his license to practice psychology for more than two decades. Gerard Beloin reported on corruption in roofing contracts at his local high school, Goffstown High School, and he now lives in fear of his life. Dennis Lennox exposed corruption in the hiring of a prestigious Fellow at Central Michigan University and he was nearly expelled from school. Dr. Shirley Pigott attempted to expose corruption at the Texas Medical Board and she's since lost her license to practice medicine. Finally, I just finished this story of a doctor and his accountant blowing the whistle on non profit hospitals and the two of them endured years of retaliation.


Anonymous said...

Please understand that auditors are often seen as "pests" that get in the way of doing "real work" and meetings with them can, indeed, become "contentious".

However, personality conflicts have NOTHING to do with a job at hand. Laws and rules remain laws and rules and those who violate them must be held accountable.

Mr. Walpin held the Corporation for National and Community Service accountable for their allowing misuse of funds and, unfortunately for them, it aired Obama's dirty laundry. And when Obama doesn't like something, he follows the Chicago style of handling it and sends his minions off to do his dirty work.

This isn't an excusable "oops!" It's actually a litmus test that ought to stop the flow of Kool-Aid once and for all.

mike volpe said...

That's a great point. There are whistle blowers that find corruption and report on it. Then, there are those who's job it is to be a whistle blower: auditors, prosecutors, and Inspectors like Mr. Walpin. If your job is to investigate a said entity, that is a naturally contentious relationship. In fact, I'd be worried if a watch dog had to cordial a relationship with the entity they were watching. Usually that's a sign the watchdog isn't doing their job.

As such, that Americorp brass didn't like Walpin is beside the point. There was no reason for them to like their watch dog. If that the brass didn't like Walpin is the only reason to remove him that speaks for itself.

That he wasn't lucid at a meeting is nonsense. He asked for and was granted permission to work from home. All of the charges for removing him so far are nothing more than red herrings.