Seeking Answers on IG Firing, Sen. Grassley Asks About Possible Role of First Lady’s Office

By Gorman Gorman

Jun 15, 2009 10:18am

In an email and fax sent late Friday, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, demanded that Alan D. Solomont, the chairman of the Corporation for National and Community Service, provide "any and all records, email, memoranda, documents, communications, or other information, whether in draft or final form" related to President Obama's firing of CNCS Inspector General Gerald Walpin.

Walpin had investigated Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's community service organization, St. HOPE Academy, which confessed to misusing AmeriCORPS grants. In April of this year, St. HOPE Academy agreed to pay a $423,836.50 settlement — $72,836.50 of which would be paid personally by Mayor Johnson.

"For reasons that I do not yet understand, the OIG was excluded from this proceeding and the settlement lifting the suspension, was done in complete disregard of the OIG’s findings, as well as the previous determination of wrong doing identified in the Notice of Suspension," Grassley wrote. "Perhaps the settlement agreement was reached without any input from the OIG, because less than half of what was misused by the Corporation grantees is being returned to the taxpayer and the OIG would not have agreed to this arrangement.  In fact, an argument can be made that not even half of the misused funds is being returned, because the settlement does not require that payment in full be made.  Rather the settlement places the grantees on a type of payment plan that will occur over a decade; to date less than 10% of the misused money has been recovered."

During the course of his investigation, Walpin clashed with the US Attorney's office; eventually Acting US Attorney Lawrence Brown, complaining that Walpin acted "as the investigator, advocate, judge, jury and town crier" in his investigation, wrote to the chair of the Integrity Committee for the Counsel of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency "to express my Office's concerns about the conduct" of Walpin.

Over the weekend we covered this firing HERE and HERE.

In his Friday email and fax, Grassley told Solomont, who backed Walpin's termination, that he wanted to see all materials related to Walpin's performance as Inspector General, his removal, any contacts CNCS had with the United States Attorney’s Office, St. HOPE Academy, Mayor Johnson, the White House, or the First Lady's office.

This appears to be related to a report in Youth Today, an independent, nationally distributed newspaper for professionals in the youth service field, which reported that "Some decisions about CNCS are being made by First Lady Michelle Obama, according to service advocates (who asked not to be named). Last week, Mrs. Obama announced that her chief of staff, Jackie Norris, would move to CNCS as a senior adviser. Officials said yesterday that Norris is scheduled to arrive on June 22."

The White House has not yet reacted to this letter; we will add their response when they do so.

- jpt

UPDATE: Josh Earnest, Deputy White House Press Secretary, says: “The anonymous source quoted by Youth Today suggesting that the First Lady was somehow involved in the decision to replace Mr. Walpin is false and uninformed.  Mrs. Obama is an energetic advocate for the mission of the Corporation for National and Community Service, but is not involved in the day-to-day management of the agency.”

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