- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The inspector general fired by President Obama after concluding a California youth academy misused at least part of $847,673 in federal grants said Tuesday he is fighting back to save the entire Offices of the Inspector General.

“For a second I was thinking, ‘Why do I need all of this?’ I’ll just resign and go back to my good legal practice in New York,” inspector general Gerald Walpin told The Washington Times America’s Morning News radio news show on Tuesday.

“But I would then be part of the apparatus that is totally torpedoing the inspectors general,” Mr. Walpin continued. “The watchdog would not really be a watchdog. He’d just be afraid of his shadow.”

He filed a lawsuit Friday that states the firing broke a 2008 law governing on how watchdogs can be dismissed.

Mr. Walpin, inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service since 2007, was removed on 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, who founded the St. Hope Academy, a nonprofit high school in that city.

Mr. Johnson, a former NBA all-star, also was the academy’s chief executive office when the federal AmeriCorps grants were received from 2004 to 2007.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California conducted a separate investigation and conclude this spring the academy improperly handled the funds.

“St. Hope did not appropriately spend AmeriCorps grant awards and education awards in accordance with the terms of grant requirements and did not adequately document its expenditures of grant awards,” acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, Lawrence G. Brown, said on April 9.

Under the terms of the agreement, the academy must repay $423,836.50, half of the total grant money, and Mr. Johnson must attend mandatory grant-administration training.

The agreement also ended the city being cut off from federal stimulus money.

Mr. Walpin said Tuesday the academy is insolvent and will never repay the money.

However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in California provided documents showing the academy and Mr. Johnson have each made an initial payment of $73,800.

Agency spokeswoman Lauren Harwood said the remaining payments are not past due and the office has received no notification the academy has filed for bankruptcy.

“We have every reason to believe the money will be repaid,” she said.

Mr. Walpin’s lawsuit also states the administration violated the watchdog law by failing to interview him and his staff, not telling Congress 30 days before an inspector general is dismissed, and not giving a full explanation about the dismissal.

However, days after the firing, a White House lawyer wrote a letter to a small group of senators stating 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.

The White House has not returned a call for comment.

Though it’s not part of the suit, filed in a federal District Court in Washington, D.C., Mr. Walpin’s lawyers stated in their legal brief that the case “raises serious questions of age discrimination” because of the accusations that Mr. Walpin, who is 77, seemed unable to function.

Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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