The inspector general President Obama fired last month filed a lawsuit Friday to get his job back, claiming the firing was politically motivated and broke a 2008 law governing how watchdogs can be dismissed.
Gerald Walpin, inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service, was removed June 10. In a letter telling Congress of his decision, Mr. Obama said he no longer had confidence in Mr. Walpin, but did not elaborate.
Mr. Walpin says he was fired because he targeted an Obama supporter, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, in a successful investigation that resulted in Mr. Johnson and an academy on which he formerly served as executive director repaying half the $847,000 it received in government grants.
He also said in its haste to dump him, the administration never interviewed him or any of his staff - an omission Mr. Walpin said in his lawsuit violates a 2008 law meant to protect government watchdogs.
The law requires that Congress be notified 30 days before an inspector general is dismissed, and Mr. Walpin contends that the administration has yet to meet the requirements for who should be notified and what reasons must be given.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday evening.
Mr. Walpin became inspector general for CNCS in 2007.
Earlier this year Mr. Walpin issued reports that found that St. Hope Academy, founded by Mr. Johnson, had misused some of the nearly $850,000 in grant money it received from the federal AmeriCorps program. The academy has agreed to pay back about half the money.
But his actions in the investigation were criticized by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, Lawrence G. Brown, who said the inspector general was out of bounds in pushing his case against the mayor and hindered the prosecutor’s own investigation.
Days after the firing, a White House lawyer wrote a letter to a small group of senators explaining that Mr. Walpin at a May 20 meeting was “confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior” that led the board of the corporation to question his ability to serve as inspector general.
Though it’s not part of the suit, Mr. Walpin’s lawyers said in their legal brief that the case “raises serious questions of age discrimination” because of the accusations that Mr. Walpin, who is in his late 70s, seemed unable to function.
The suit was filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C.