White House Comments on Firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The White House informed lawmakers last night that an inspector general fired by President Obama appeared confused, disoriented and unable to answer questions when he was called in late May to a meeting of the agency that operates AmeriCorps.

Gerald Walpin rejected the White House's assertion, saying last night, "This is nonsense to rely on a supposed single meeting, which makes no sense whatsoever and is just grasping at straws."

Several lawmakers have inquired about the president's dismissal of Walpin. President George W. Bush appointed him in 2007 to serve as watchdog at the Corporation for National and Community Service, which also operates the Senior Corps program.

The lawmakers have questioned whether Walpin's firing relates to a 2008 investigation into the potential misuse of AmeriCorps grants to the St. HOPE Academy of Sacramento. The group was founded by former NBA star Kevin Johnson, who is now mayor of Sacramento and also is an Obama supporter.

Walpin's investigation concluded that Johnson and a colleague had misused about $850,000 in grant funding. Prosecutor Lawrence G. Brown, also appointed by Bush, settled the matter with Johnson and later filed a complaint with an inspector general ethics panel, alleging Walpin withheld key information and interfered in his investigation by speaking with the news media.

Obama removed Walpin last week, saying in a statement that he had lost confidence in the inspector general.

Earlier Tuesday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a supporter and friend of the president, had said that Obama "failed to follow the proper procedure" in providing 30 days' notice to Congress before removing an inspector general and had not provided adequate reasons for the dismissal.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and other lawmakers also demanded that the agency provide all information related to Walpin's dismissal.

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