Court accused of covering for Obama in ‘Walpingate’
Judge appears to be stonewalling scandal linked to White House
By Drew Zahn
Former Inspector General Gerald Walpin
Former Inspector General Gerald Walpin, whose dismissal by President Obama last year has been challenged by congressmen as potentially illegal political retaliation, is now stepping up the battle to get his job back, accusing the judicial system of stalling his case and, thus, doing the White House a convenient favor.
Court documents filed last week accuse U.S. District Court Judge Richard Roberts of failing to act within federally mandated time requirements and “doing nothing at all” to move the case forward.
Similarly, a joint congressional report by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., which found the administration had failed to comply with requirements of the law and “orchestrated an after-the-fact smear campaign to justify the president’s action,” has been allowed to languish.
Meanwhile, “Walpingate” fades from the public memory, and the White House has moved on to appoint Walpin’s replacement, as though the scandal were resolved.
The advantage the White House gains by delays in the case hasn’t been lost on a recent Washington Times editorial, which calls for a halt to nomination of Jonathan Hatfield to Walpin’s old position:
“[Judge Roberts] has played into the hands of the Obama administration, which has used every possible stalling tactic to keep the case buried and its merits unexamined,” the editorial contends. “The goal, which is highly improper, seems to be to render Mr. Walpin’s case moot by putting Mr. Hatfield in his place.”
The editorial insists the integrity of the offices of inspector general is even more important for “an administration increasingly known for outlandish stonewalling of Congress and the press and for its Justice Department’s refusal to investigate any purported administration wrongdoing.”
As WND reported, the White House fired Walpin from his watchdog position over the Corporation for National and Community Services shortly after the inspector general exposed sexual misconduct and gross misappropriation of federal funds by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a prominent Barack Obama supporter.
Independent federal inspectors general, however, are supposed to be granted special protection from political interference or retaliation – thanks in part to a law co-sponsored by then-Sen. Barack Obama – to ensure they are free to investigate waste and fraud uninfluenced by political cronyism.
Congressmen Grassley and Issa, however, issued a report suspecting Obama of violating his own law.
“Throughout our investigation of Mr. Walpin’s removal, the White House has repeatedly communicated that the president was not motivated by inappropriate political reasons,” said Issa. “The fact is Gerald Walpin led an aggressive investigation of a political ally of President Obama that successfully recovered taxpayer dollars. While firing an investigator who uncovered the abuse of funds by a political ally might be considered an act of ‘political courage’ in Chicago politics, for most Americans it raises troubling questions.”
Walpin had sued the CNCS in July of last year, seeking reinstatement. Dozens of procedural steps and court filings later, however, the judge has refused to take any action on the case, save granting the defense an extension and denying a preliminary injunction request that would have required the CNCS to supply affidavits and documents in its defense.
Now Walpin is petitioning a higher court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to issue a writ of mandamus directing Judge Roberts to either promptly resolve the outstanding motions in the lawsuit or transfer the case to a judge who can.
According to court filings, Walpin “brings this petition reluctantly, and only after trying by every other means reasonable available to try to break the logjam in his case.”
The documents also cite Grassley and Issa’s report, before declaring the judge “need not have allowed such unlawfulness to continue and should, at the very least, have ensured that the substantive questions be timely tried.”
The origins of ‘Walpingate’
In 2008, Walpin was overseeing an investigation of St. HOPE Academy, a charter school founded and operated by Kevin Johnson, a former NBA star and self-described friend of Barack Obama. Walpin referred Johnson to the U.S. attorney’s office for criminal and civil prosecution for “false and fraudulent conduct in connection with $845,018.75 in federal funds.”
According to Walpin’s referral, St. HOPE used members of AmeriCorps – which is run by CNCS – for political campaigning to re-elect Board of Education incumbents, and the hours spent on those elections were improperly recorded as AmeriCorps service hours.
“The money was given to St. HOPE to finance AmeriCorps members, who are basically volunteers that they call members, to do tutoring in schools among disadvantaged students,” Walpin told Eric Hogue of Hogue News. “My investigation found they didn’t use the AmeriCorps members for tutoring; they used them to drive Mr. Johnson around, to wash his car, to do all sorts of janitorial and administrative work [that] the money wasn’t given to them for.”
Johnson’s eligibility to receive federal grants was consequently suspended on Sept. 24, 2008.
Despite Johnson’s proven misconduct, the voters of Sacramento elected him mayor less than two months later. But when, in February 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the city of Sacramento’s eligibility to receive stimulus funds under ARRA was thought to be threatened by Johnson’s suspension.
The U.S. attorney’s office, headed by acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown, negotiated a favorable settlement for Johnson that reinstated his eligibility to receive federal funds.
According to Grassley’s and Issa’s report, however, the settlement included “no meaningful guarantee” that the United States would ever actually collect any payments from St. HOPE, which was saddled with the bulk of the settlement.
Last May, Walpin, who had been shut out of the settlement negotiations by Brown, complained to the board that oversees AmeriCorps funding, prompting Brown to file a complaint against Walpin.
Three weeks later, Walpin received a phone call from the White House telling him to resign or be fired. Walpin refused the phone ultimatum and was fired 45 minutes later, despite a law requiring the president to give 30-days notice to Congress before removing an IG and to explain the reasons for doing so.
And while the firing alone was enough to trigger Grassley’s demand for an investigation and an initial report in June 2009, documents cited in Grassley and Issa’s final, joint report cast the firing in an even more political light:
- Brown, sometimes referred to in the press as a Republican critic of Walpin, actually left the GOP in 1988 and registered as a Democrat through 2007.
- Brown wrote a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in the midst of the Johnson investigation, laying out his qualifications for and seeking a political appointment to the U.S. attorney position. The congressional investigation report concludes, “It would be reasonable for an already skeptical public to wonder whether Brown excluded Inspector General Walpin from negotiations and settled the St. HOPE matter with Johnson in order to curry favor with the White House because Brown wanted the president to appoint him.”
- Brown and Matthew Jacobs, Kevin Johnson’s attorney, frequently exchanged informal emails deriding and scoffing over Walpin, emails the report states “do not suggest an appropriately arm’s length negotiating relationship.” Further, the report states, “Together with his efforts to obtain a political appointment from the president, Brown’s communications with Johnson’s attorney contribute to the appearance that Walpin’s removal was more about his vigorous pursuit of the St. HOPE matter than about any other legitimate, unrelated factors.”
- An internal memo that reveals that the White House considered issues in deciding to remove Walpin that it did not disclose in the official notice to Congress, including a complaint about Walpin’s investigation of another Obama political ally in New York.
Grassley and Issa concluded, “None of the documents produced after the publication of our initial report undermine or conflict with the conclusions of the [final] report. Arguably, some of the new documents could actually reinforce the public perception that the inspector general was removed for political reasons.
“In particular, the revelation that the acting U.S. attorney was seeking a presidential appointment at the time he filed a complaint against Walpin puts that complaint in a different light,” they continue. “Moreover, the fact that the White House allowed the documents to be withheld for so long and that it required so much effort to finally obtain them also suggests a lack of transparency that is inconsistent with the goals repeatedly articulated by President Obama for a more open and accountable administration.”
The Court of Appeals has issued an order for all sides in the Walpin lawsuit to submit response to Walpin’s filing within the next seven days.
Source: Judicial Watch
FBI Probes Charity Exposed By Fired Inspector Gen.
Last Updated: Thu, 06/18/2009 – 3:06pm
A mayor’s charity exposed for fraud by a fired inspector general is being investigated by the FBI for obstructing an investigation into its suspicious spending of federal funds.
The charity’s founder, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, illegally used nearly $1 million in federal funds to pay volunteers for political activities, run personal errands and even wash his car. After acknowledging that “there may have been administrative errors,” the mayor reached a settlement with federal prosecutors to repay more than $400,000 with no further penalties.
The government agency watchdog (Gerald Walpin) that investigates taxpayer-financed community service groups was the first to discover the fraud at Johnson’s nonprofit. But the mayor is a close political ally of Barack Obama’s so the president abruptly fired Walpin this week, violating a law that safeguards the independence of federal watchdogs.
Now a Sacramento newspaper reports that the FBI is investigating claims from the nonprofit’s (St. HOPE) executive director that a high-ranking official obstructed a federal inquiry by deleting Johnson’s electronic mails during the investigation. In a resignation letter published by the paper, the executive director says that a board member accessed St. HOPE’s e-mail system and deleted some of Johnson’s e-mails.
“We had to pay thousands of dollars to recover the information deleted from our e-mail system as a result of this highly inappropriate and potentially unlawful incursion into our e-mail system,” the former director’s letter says. “We are still unsure whether all of the deleted information has been recovered.”
St. HOPE is one of many local charities nationwide that annually gets thousands of dollars in federal grants from the government’s so-called national service programs. Among them is AmeriCorps, which annually distributes millions of federal dollars to local groups to conquer everything from illiteracy to affordable housing and the environment.
Founded in 1989, Johnson’s St. HOPE claims to help poor inner-city youth access educational opportunities, leadership training, character development and spiritual growth. The taxpayer-funded group has been rocked by scandal and turmoil however, with the resignations of key board members, an absent chief financial officer and the misuse of federal funds. A recent newspaper editorial said the group is in utter disarray.
Source: Judicial Watch
Obama Blocks Probe Of Fired IG
Last Updated: Wed, 12/23/2009 – 3:55pm
Violating its own guarantee of unprecedented transparency, the White House is blocking an investigation into the controversial firing of an inspector general who exposed one of President Obama’s political supporters—a California mayor—for misusing federal funds.
First Lady Michelle Obama was reportedly behind the contentious June dismissal of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin and congressional investigators want to interview the aide (Jackie Norris) who may have given the order. At the time Norris was the First Lady’s chief of staff but the White House counsel’s office has blocked investigators from interviewing her, according to a national news report.
Norris is currently a senior advisor at the organization that oversees AmeriCorps, the country’s national services program which annually receives millions of federal dollars to conquer everything from illiteracy to affordable housing and the environment. During his tenure as inspector general, Walpin exposed a multi million-dollar fraud scheme in AmeriCorps’ most expensive program, a teaching fellow project at the City University of New York, and he busted a Sacramento charity, operated by a powerful Obama ally who happens to be the city’s mayor, for misusing nearly $1 million in federal grants.
The mayor (Obama pal Kevin Johnson) illegally used the money to pay volunteers for political activities, run personal errands and even wash his car. Johnson, a former professional basketball player, acknowledged that there “may have been administrative errors” and reached a settlement with federal prosecutors to repay about half of the money. This certainly indicates that Walpin did his job of rooting out government fraud, waste and abuse quite efficiently.
It also explains why Obama has yet to come up with a valid reason—other than retaliation for busting his corrupt friend—to fire Walpin. The president violated a law that safeguards the independence of government agency watchdogs and the Democratic senator (Missouri’s Claire McCaskill) who authored the measure blasted the commander-in-chief for removing an inspector general who exposed widespread waste in taxpayer-financed community service groups.
Obama “failed to follow the proper procedure” in notifying Congress about the removal and for failing to give a valid reason for the termination, according to McCaskill. Obama first said that he lost confidence in Walpin and later amended the story by claiming that that the otherwise efficient watchdog was “confused” and “disoriented” at a meeting.
Source: Judicial Watch
Obama Breaks Law In Govt. Watchdog Firing
Last Updated: Wed, 06/17/2009 – 2:37pm
Barack Obama violated a law that safeguards the independence of government agency watchdogs when he fired an inspector general who found that one of the president’s political supporters—a California mayor—misused federal funds.
The Democratic senator who authored the law (passed by Congress last year) relating to the termination of government agency watchdogs blasted her good friend the commander-in-chief this week for abruptly removing an inspector general who has exposed widespread waste in taxpayer-financed community service groups.
In a statement posted on her U.S. Senate website, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill says Obama “failed to follow the proper procedure” in notifying Congress about the inspector general removal and for failing to give a valid reason for the termination. Earlier this week Obama said he had lost confidence in the inspector general (Gerald Walpin) but McCaskill reminds the president that loss of confidence is not a sufficient reason.
The president has subsequently amended his story, blaming Walpin’s removal on the fact that he was “confused” and “disoriented” at a meeting last month. Walpin certainly seemed lucid during his tenure as inspector general of the country’s national service programs, which annually receive millions of federal dollars to conquer everything from illiteracy to affordable housing and the environment.
He exposed a multi million-dollar fraud scheme in AmeriCorps’ most expensive program, a teaching fellow project at the City University of New York and he busted a Sacramento charity, operated by a powerful Obama ally who happens to be the city’s mayor, for misusing nearly $1 million in federal grants. The mayor, Kevin Johnson, illegally used the money to pay volunteers for political activities, run personal errands and even wash his car.
Johnson, a former professional basketball player, acknowledged that there “may have been administrative errors” and reached a settlement with federal prosecutors to repay about half of the money. This certainly indicates that Walpin did his job of rooting out government fraud, waste and abuse quite efficiently. It also explains why Obama can’t come up with a valid reason to fire him.
AmeriCorps Inspector General Shredded White House Documents at Request of Agency’s Spokeswoman
By Fred Lucas
November 12, 2009