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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Walpin-Gate AmeriCorps Firing Scandal: Walpin Asks Judge For a Summary Judgment

Until a few months Walpin was the Inspector General for AmeriCorps. He claims he was fired because he made the mistake of Investigation a friend of Michelle Obama (FOO) Kevin Johnson, former NBA star who is now mayor of Sacramento, California, for the misuse of  funds.

Pressed for a reasoning for the dismissal the Administration trashed Walpin hinting that he was in the early stages of dementia. They said the IG seemed "disoriented" at one meeting. Walpin's version of the story was confirmed by a AmeriCorps board member who confirmed that he was fired to protect the Democrats from a political scandal.

A GOP report contends that the Obama White House was politically motivated when it fired inspector general Gerald Walpin after his 2008 investigation of Kevin Johnson, now Sacramento's mayor. The report by Rep Issa and Senator Grassley criticizes the White House ethics counsel, for not examining what Walpin had been investigating at the time of his dismissal, including the allegations of sexual misconduct by Johnson and hush-money payoffs by his now-fiancee Michelle Rhee.

New Evidence released last week was that after denying that there was a meeting,  the First Lady's former Chief of Staff Jackie Norris, met with Alan Solomont of Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps in an attempt to keep the scandal away from Michelle Obama.

While all this is going on, Gerald Walpin has been suing to get his old job back (and damages), according to the Washington Times, Walpin has asked the Judge to make a summary judgment (a  determination made by a court without a full trial) regarding his return to work.
Walpin-Gate Suit Has New Motion

Complete with a raft of documents and exhibits, fired AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin on Wednesday filed a motion for summary judgment in his lawsuit demanding reinstatement to his job -- his own motion not even waiting for the judge to rule on the Obama administration's motion to dismiss the case without hearing or trial. A close perusal of his motion, affidavits, and exhibits suggests to me, for the first time, that this case has potential to reach the Supreme Court regardless of how the lower court rules. In his new motion, Mr. Walpin makes even more explicit than in his original suit that the constitutional and statutory disputes at issue are of great weight and moment, and he again claims support from a line of Supreme Court cases going all the way back to the famous Marbury v. Madison case of 1803.

It is also worth noting that our newspaper earned specific reference in Mr. Walpin's new motion. On page 17 of the "Memorandum of law and points of authority in support of plaintifff's motion for summary judgment," Mr. Walpin and his attorneys submit this: "The day after Mr. Walpin was ermoved, CNCS instructed Acting IG Back to destory 'WH documents.' He did so and '[c]onfirmed... the documents were shredded.' Later, Board members expressed concern when the Washington Times printed a story that contradicted Board members' account of relevant events...."

Other documents already available have shown that board members and staff then discussed whether somebody should call us at the Washington Times to explain their side of the story. Specifically, board member Eric Tanenblatt wrote on June 17 to board member Steve Goldsmith that "I think someone needs to get on the phone with the reporter on background and lay out the facts.... This feels like amateur hour and we as board members are now starting to look like tools." While the content of the call, and the person who made it, ended up being not just "on background" but under conditions of being "off the record," I think it is fair in light of these documents to say that "someone" related to the agency did indeed call me, and that I found the caller earnest but entirely unpersuasive (NOT at all dishonest, but just not armed with relevant info) when factual details were discussed.

This all becomes important because a congressional staff report describes as a "smear campaign" the White House efforts, after the fact, to provide reasons for his firing. A host of documents show a lot of other scrambling going on in the days and weeks after the firing to justify the firing -- scrambling which itself lends weight to Mr. Walpin's central contention in his suit that the White House did not provide the lawfully required "reasons" for his firing when the White House informed Congress that Mr. Walpin would be forced out. Clearly, the specific call I received wasn't a "smear" of Mr. Walpin, but it was also clear to me that the facts did not back up the justifications belatedly offered by the White House. Those justifications from the White House -- not the call I received from a person whose name shall remain anonymous, but other representations made to Congress and/or the media -- did indeed have the aspect of smears. In particular, they raise the possibility of unlawful age discrimination, as discussed in this earlier editorial.

Now, apart from Mr, Walpin's job records, why should the rest of us care? First, because the firing of Mr. Walpin put the big chill on whistleblowing intended to keep government honest, and perhaps hid skulduggery of the sort that erodes the very integrity of our government. In that light, the following lines from the penultimate page of Mr. Walpin's aforementioned "Memorandum of law....," become potentially very important. The memorandum says that if Mr. Walpin is reinstated for 30 days, he could, as anticipated by the Inspector General Act itself, "ensure that further Office of Inspector General (OIG) records are not destroyed, and that OIG staff members are permitted to freely respond to congressional inquiries. During that time, Mr. Walpin will be able to finally facilitate the communication with Congress that President Obama's illegal actions have thwarted."

Specifically, another document filed Wednesday ("Declaration of Gerald Walpin....") made these points: "The suddena and immediate removal of me from office prevented me from working to ensure an appropriate and full investigation of the potential obstruction of justice which I had referred to the FBI for investigation [regarding a case against Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a self-proclaimed personal friend of the Obamas].... Likewise, my removal resulted in a failure to implement OIG's report on the misuse of funds at The City University of New York."

That CUNY program, by the way, one of AmercCorps biggest, was alleged to have wasted some $80 million while now-board chairman Alan Solomont, a huge campaign donor for the Obamas, served on the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Nobody alleges wrongdoing by Mr. Solomont, but Mr. Walpin's allegation was that the board did not properly perform its oversight functions, and that its negligence was thus partially, if slightly indirectly responsible, for the alleged waste.

Thus we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice. That's why all this is important. Yesterday's court filings help illuminate that specter -- which, as specters are rumored to be, makes it look a trifle spooky, at least for those who care about honest government.

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