Thursday, June 18, 2009

Watching the Watchers

I've been following the curious case of Gerald Walpin, who was serving as an Inspector General for the AmeriCorps program until he was unceremoniously fired by the Obama administration. Walpin had been investigating how some of the money was being spent and began looking into the actions of Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player who is now the mayor of Sacramento. Johnson is a longtime friend and supporter of the President and there are reports that he was using AmeriCorps funds for personal use. Byron York of the Washington Examiner has been reporting extensively on the case and his latest dispatch is here.

At first glance, it appears that something is fishy about the chain of events. What's especially troubling is that once the decision was made to fire Walpin, members of the administration portrayed the 77-year old Walpin as somehow lacking in mental capacity following a May 20 meeting. Walpin isn't letting that portrayal go unanswered:

"It appears to suggest that I was removed because I was disabled -- based on one occasion out of hundreds," he said, adding that the administration is grasping at "non-existent straws" to explain its actions.

"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.

That's going to leave a mark. Meanwhile, the White House has some questions to answer from Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who has long been a champion of inspectors general. York picks up the story:

At Wednesday's meeting, Sen. Grassley's staffers wanted to know more about the White House review. "Unfortunately," Grassley writes in a letter sent late Wednesday afternoon to White House counsel Gregory Craig, "Mr. Eisen refused to answer several direct questions posed to him about the representations made in his letter." Grassley says that since Eisen refused to answer the questions in person, Grassley would submit a dozen of them in writing. Here they are:

1) Did the [Corporation for National and Community Service] Board communicate its concerns about Mr. Walpin to the White House in writing?
2) Specifically, which CNCS Board members came forward with concerns about Mr. Walpin’s ability to serve as the Inspector General?
3) Was the communication about the Board’s concerns on or about May 20, 2009 the first instance of any communications with White House personnel regarding the possibility of removing Mr. Walpin?
4) Which witnesses were interviewed in the course of Mr. Eisen’s review?
5) How many witnesses were interviewed?
6) Were any employees of the Office of Inspector General, who may have had more frequent contact with Mr. Walpin than the Board members, interviewed?
7) Was Mr. Walpin asked directly during Mr. Eisen’s review about the events of May 20, 2009?
8) Was Mr. Walpin asked for his response to the allegations submitted to the Integrity Committee by Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown?
9) What efforts were made during Mr. Eisen’s review to obtain both sides of the story or to afford the Office of Inspector General an opportunity to be heard?
10) In addition to the claim that Mr. Walpin was “confused” and “disoriented,” the letter also says he exhibited “other behavior” that led to questions about his capacity. What other behavior was Mr. Eisen referencing?
11) If the initial and primary concern had to do with Mr. Walpin’s capacity to serve for potential health reasons, why was he only given one hour to decide whether to resign or be fired?
12) If Mr. Walpin’s telecommuting arrangements since the beginning of this year were a major concern, then why was Mr. Walpin not simply asked to stop telecommuting?

As York points out, Sen. Grassley is expecting the White House to provide a response in writing by Wednesday, June 24. It will be interesting to see if the White House complies. Eventually every administration finds that they want to get rid of some sort of meddlesome priest. To put it mildly, this sort of thing is not change we can believe in.


Anonymous said...

Here's the change you can expect whether you believe in it or not: Selective Enforcement of Rules and Laws, favors and corruption in favor of cronies, and attempted silencing of the opposition.

I'll bet Obama doesn't respond to the allegations, or if he does respond it will be in a way that is as clear as mud.

Night Writer said...

Let's see if Tom Heffelfinger can look into this. The former US Attorney may have time on his hands since he resigned in 2006 - supposedly before the DOJ could dismiss him - setting off a two-year fox-hunt from Democrats appalled by the possibility that Heffelfinger was targeted because his actions (or inactions) had offended someone in the Bush Administration. Now you've got an aging IG being portrayed as a doddering incompetent because he threw off the Emporer's groove by investigating one of his friends. Unleash the hounds!

Night Writer said...

Nice reference to the "meddlesome priest", btw and apropos. Per the movie, "Becket", King Henry II was vexed at his best friend, Thomas Becket, who he had installed as Archbiship of Canterbury, for excommunicating one of Henry's cronies. The man had gotten away with murder because he was a friend of the king; Becket insisted there was a higher law than the king's desires and carried through with the religious sanction.

Henry, an impulsive sort, raged "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" Whereupon a group of Henry's barons went to Canterbury and assassinated Becket. The knights used their swords because buses had not yet been invented, preventing them from throwing Becket under one.