Obama to fire inspector general of AmeriCorps

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  • TSU45

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    Jun 6, 2008
    San Marcos, Tx
    Obama to fire inspector general of AmeriCorps

    By ANN SANNER and PETE YOST – 3 days ago

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama plans to fire the inspector general who investigates AmeriCorps and other national service programs amid a controversy between the IG and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is an Obama supporter and former NBA basketball star.

    The IG, Gerald Walpin, was criticized by the U.S. attorney in Sacramento for the way he handled an investigation of Johnson and his nonprofit group, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants from the Corporation for National Community Service. The corporation runs the AmeriCorps program.

    On Thursday, Obama said in a letter to Congress that he had lost confidence in Walpin. Neither the president nor deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest would give details.

    The president must give Congress 30 days' notice before removing Walpin, who is being suspended with pay for the 30 days.

    Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, criticized the White House's reluctance to specify why Walpin is being fired. Grassley pointed to a Senate committee report that says the requirement to notify Congress when an IG is removed is designed to ensure that inspectors general are not removed for political reasons.

    The report accompanied an IG reform law passed by Congress last year. Grassley said Walpin had identified millions of dollars in AmeriCorps funds that were wasted or misspent.

    "For obvious reasons, we won't get into details of a personnel decision like this, but I can tell you that the president lost confidence in Mr. Walpin's performance," Earnest said. "The president will appoint a replacement in whom he has full confidence as the corporation carries out its important mission."

    Walpin serves at the pleasure of the president, the corporation said.
    Messages left for Walpin seeking comment were not immediately returned.

    The IG found that Johnson, a former all-star point guard for the Phoenix Suns, had used AmeriCorps grants to pay volunteers to engage in school-board political activities, run personal errands for Johnson and even wash his car.

    In August 2008, Walpin referred the matter to the local U.S. attorney's office, which said the IG's conclusions seemed overstated and did not accurately reflect all the information gathered in the investigation.
    "We also highlighted numerous questions and further investigation they needed to conduct, including the fact that they had not done an audit to establish how much AmeriCorps money was actually misspent," the U.S. attorney's office said in an April 29 letter to the federal counsel of inspectors general.

    Walpin's office made repeated public comments just before the Sacramento mayoral election, prompting the U.S. attorney's office to inform the media that it did not intend to file any criminal charges.

    The U.S. attorney's office reached a settlement in the matter. Brown cited press accounts that said Johnson and the nonprofit would repay half of nearly $850,000 in grants it received.

    Ken Bach, who works in the inspector general's office at the corporation, will be acting inspector general until Obama appoints someone to the position.

    Walpin, a New York attorney, was appointed by President George W. Bush and sworn into office in January 2007 after being confirmed by the Senate, according to a news release on AmeriCorps' Web site. Walpin graduated from College of the City of New York in 1952 and received a law degree in 1955 from Yale Law School. He was a partner with the New York City law firm Katten Muchin and Rosenman LLP for more than 40 years.

    On Wednesday night, Alan Solomont, a Democrat and the board chairman of the government-run corporation, and Stephen Goldsmith, a Republican and the board's vice chair, said they backed the president's decision.
    In a written statement, Solomont and Goldsmith said: "We strongly endorse the president's decision with respect to Inspector General Gerald Walpin. We look forward to working with a new inspector general."

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