Records Indicate Tension Between Agency's Fired IG and Officials

Gerald Walpin was fired by President Obama.
Gerald Walpin was fired by President Obama. (AP)
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By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Documents delivered to lawmakers this week expose a frequently confrontational and petty relationship over the past several years between Gerald Walpin and officials at the Corporation for National and Community Service. President Obama fired the Bush appointee last month, citing a lack of confidence.

Lawmakers almost immediately raised concerns about the dismissal of the organization's inspector general, suggesting the White House failed to follow proper procedure in removing the appointee of President George W. Bush and did not provide proper reasons for the dismissal. The White House outlined its concerns in a letter to lawmakers, suggesting that Walpin appeared confused, disoriented and unable to answer questions at a late-May board meeting of the corporation.

This week, corporation staffers delivered even more evidence suggesting a difficult working relationship with Walpin, sending the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee several e-mails, memos and even a mock newsletter for review.

In an interview yesterday, Walpin once again suggested the agency's claims lack merit and do little to build a case for his dismissal.

Among the documents is a May 2008 parody newsletter published by staff members in Walpin's office and approved by him as a gift for a retiring assistant inspector general. The newsletter contained fake news articles, including two with racial and sexual jokes referencing the federal procurement process and the government's use of set-aside programs for minorities and disabled veterans.

One article refers to former New York governor Eliot L. Spitzer's admitted use of a prostitution service "that specializes in the procurement of blondes, brunettes and redheads." Another suggested the departing colleague had "finally procured her Federal retirement" from a vendor "known to be owned and operated by a qualified minority-female-veteran-disabled person."

An employee later complained about the newsletter to agency management, who then addressed the matter with Walpin. He never issued a warning or disciplinary action about the matter, according to corporation officials.

Walpin said that his staff had enjoyed the newsletter's humor and that no one had directly complained about its content. He acknowledged he spoke with the corporation's general counsel about the complaints but took no disciplinary actions related to the newsletter because, "I still don't see where it's objectionable."

The agency also provided a series of memos from January 2009 regarding an equal opportunity complaint filed against Walpin's office. He raised procedural questions and suggested the investigation was handled unfairly, before admitting in a late January e-mail, "I had no prior experience and therefore no knowledge of the procedure."

Walpin said he cooperated fully with the investigation but objected to its focus and said investigators mishandled transcripts of his testimony related to the complaint.

Corporation officials also once again provided lawmakers with Walpin's May 2008 report to Congress regarding the Justice Department's settlement with former NBA player Kevin Johnson and his Sacramento-based St. Hope Academy. Walpin's initial investigation into the nonprofit group's misuse of AmeriCorps grants led to a legal settlement this spring between Johnson, the academy and the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento. The corporation alleges that Walpin's report unfairly characterized the settlement and omitted key pieces of information.

"That is a job of the IG: to comment on what the IG thinks is the most efficient use of the money," Walpin said yesterday, acknowledging he had frequent disagreements with agency leadership.

He is scheduled to be interviewed today by Senate committee staffers.

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