- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Democratic senator on Tuesday joined several Republicans in questioning President Obama’s firing of the internal watchdog for the federal AmeriCorps program.

Gerald Walpin, the national service agency’s inspector general, was dismissed over his handling of an investigation of the mayor of Sacramento, Calif., Kevin Johnson.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said the president failed to follow a law she sponsored, which requires that he give Congress 30 days’ advance notice of an inspector general’s dismissal, along with the cause for the firing. Mr. Obama merely said he lost confidence in Mr. Walpin.

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“Loss of confidence is not a sufficient reason,” Mrs. McCaskill said. “I’m hopeful the White House will provide a more substantive rationale, in writing, as quickly as possible.”

Last week, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, asked for information on any role first lady Michelle Obama’s office may have played in the decision.

Mr. Grassley requested “any and all records, e-mail, memoranda, documents, communications or other information” related to contacts with officials in the first lady’s office.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Mrs. Obama played no role in the president’s decision to remove Mr. Walpin.

Mrs. Obama’s former chief of staff, Jackie Norris, is expected to join the Corporation for National and Community Service as senior adviser June 22.

White House Counsel Gregory Craig, in a letter to Mr. Grassley, cited criticism of Mr. Walpin’s investigation of Mr. Johnson, a former all-star point guard for the Phoenix Suns professional basketball team and a supporter of Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign.

Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, also asked the White House for documents on the firing.

“Despite the requirement to notify Congress in advance of firing … the White House moved swiftly to sack an investigator who uncovered wrongdoing and abuse by a political ally of the president,” said Mr. Issa, senior Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

In September, Mr. Walpin’s office found misuse of federal grants by Mr. Johnson and the St. HOPE Academy, a nonprofit education program he founded. Mr. Johnson and St. HOPE ultimately agreed to repay half of $847,000 in grants they had received from AmeriCorps between 2004 and 2007.

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