U.S. President Barack Obama fires Inspector General Gerald Walpin amid controversy

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Washington, DC was the scene of growing controversy Wednesday evening over the firing of former Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) Gerald Walpin. U.S. President Barack Obama, who ordered Walpin's termination last week, has been accused of doing so for dubious reasons. The chief of these is that Walpin had been aggressively pursuing an investigation into Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's purported misuse of federal grants meant for a nonprofit education fund.

Johnson is one of Obama's good friends and supporters. Some journalists and pundits have speculated that this creates a conflict of interests and that Obama fired Walpin for damaging the reputation of one of his key allies. Making matters worse is that Walpin was reportedly given only one hour's notice prior to his termination. This is in direct violation of a law that Obama voted to enact while a U.S. Senator, in which an inspector general must be notified thirty days before being fired.

Declining to comment on the apparent illegality of the termination, Obama insisted that political favoritism played no part in the seventy-seven-year-old Walpin's firing. Whilst he gave no further reason himself, a letter written by White House staff members to Senate congressional leaders intended to allay their concerns over the firing stated that Walpin lost his job because he had acted "confused" and "disoriented" in a board meeting of the CNCS on May the 20th, 2009.

These statements were re-iterated by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who also stated that they were supported by the other members of the board at the meeting. Both Alan Solomont and Stephen Goldsmith, chairman and vice-chairman of the CNCS board respectively, stated that they strongly endorsed Obama's decision to fire Walpin. In an attempt to answer questions regarding the validity of Walpin's termination, the White House proclaimed that it was completely legal, but did not elaborate on why.

Walpin, however, does not agree with the Obama Administration's assessments of his mental health or job performance and accused Obama of blatantly lying to the public about both. Giving credibility to Walpin's defense is his attentive and alert behavior during numerous appearances on radio and television programs over the past seventy-two hours. During all of these appearances, he sharply refuted the Obama Administration's claims about his mentality. In an exclusive interview with Fox News Channel on Wednesday, Walpin not only accused Obama of lying about him but said that the claims themselves were "absolutely wild". He also said that he is now "the target of the most powerful man in this country" and that it seems like Obama's primary goals are "to attack....and get rid of me".

Other reasons given by the White House for firing Walpin, which he equally denies, include statements made by Norman Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, in a letter to two Senators. In the letter, Eisen says that Walpin had insisted upon working from home, in New York, over the objections of the board and had "exhibited a lack of candor in providing material information to decision makers," engaging in "troubling and inappropriate conduct."

Walpin states that he worked from home with the agreement of the board, travelling to the office two or three times per week, adding that he had, in fact, intentions of resigning his position before Obama became president because of the difficulties the commute to work had caused between him and his wife.

He fully expects new attacks to be made against him by the Obama Administration in the coming days.


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