Confused and Disoriented with the Inspector General

A couple of weeks ago, I thought The Inspector General was an old movie about corrupt politicians, snake oil salesmen, and a goofballmistaken for a corruption-busting-Inspector General.  I woke up to find myself watching a new plot about corrupt politicians, a snake oil salesman, and a real, impressive corruption-busting-Inspector General.  (The “snake oil” is an I’m-helping-the-poor-with-your-tax-money-but-profiting-from-it scam.)

I read about the case at http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/Gerald-Walpin-speaks-the-inside-story-of-the-AmeriCorps-firing-48030697.html.  The story is all over the internet, but not much on the government media.  Er, excuse me, mainstream media.

Who knew that we had any Inspector Generals, much less 64?  I didn’t—until Gerald Walpin was fired.  He was the Inspector General who was responsible for making sure that our taxpayer dollars were not being misused that were going to AmeriCorps (sort of a domestic Peace Corps Government Funded Agency).  AmeriCorps is one of the agencies that report to and get their money through the federal agency called the Corporation for National and Community Service (or CNCS).

Gerald Walpin had done his job well.  He had discovered and documented misuse of taxpayer money in AmeriCorps given to the City University of New York and a program known as St. HOPE.  St. HOPE was run by Kevin Johnson, who had received $850,000 of our tax dollars funneled down from the government to CNCS to AmeriCorps.  As a result of Mr. Walpin’s findings, last fall Kevin Johnson was suspended from receiving any federal funds in the future.  Kevin Johnson was suspended rather than disbarred (which is what Walpin recommended).  A suspension could be reversed; disbarment could not.

Instead of thanking their Inspector Dealer for discovering the culprits on both coasts, the board of the CNCS was unhappy with him.  Instead of cooperating with Walpin after the reports were filed, they got frosty and started excluding him from some of what was usually included in as part of his role as Inspector General.

One plot twist: Sacramento elected Kevin Johnson as their mayor AFTER he had been suspended for misuse of taxpayer’s dollars.  The voters knew about the suspension: his opponent made sure of it.  I guess since the city is broke, they don’t have to worry about corrupt officials misusing their tax money.

Then, big bucks from stimulus money became available to everyone and his brother in January.  However, Sacramento might not be able to get any of that money because of their mayor’s suspension from receiving any federal funds.

Additionally, the US Attorney in Sacramento was investigating the Kevin Johnson case as a criminal matter.  He decided not to pursue criminal charges but was trying to negotiate a deal where half of the money given to Johnson would be paid back to the government. That is what settlement talks in this kind of situation were usually about—repayment of misused money.  However, the US Attorney was also negotiating the issue of suspension.  Specifically, Kevin Johnson wanted to have the suspension lifted as part of the deal. Mr. Walpin had recommended that Johnson be not only suspended, but disbarred, so he protested the lifting of the suspension.

When Mr. Walpin raised objections, the Attorney General found an easy way to reach a settlement.  He took Inspector General Walpin out of the loop.  The US attorney then struck a deal among Kevin Johnson, AmeriCorps, and the CNCS that Kevin Johnson would pay back about half of the $850,000, and would be unsuspended.

Mr. Walpin had just completed a report critical of what was going on with the situation in Sacramento (and at the City University of New York) when he was fired.  An attorney for the White House called Mr. Walpin on his cell phone on a Wednesday evening when Mr. Walpin was on the road.  He was given one hour to resign or be fired, in spite of the 2008 Inspectors General Reform Act (co-sponsored by Senator Barrack Obama), which requires the president to give Congress 30 days’ notice, plus an explanation of cause, before firing an inspector general.

Mr. Walpin refused to resign, and pointed out the legal requirements for notice.  So the White House gave notice to Congress the next day, but no cause.  When pressed for cause by a member of Congress, the White House indicated that Mr. Walpin had been “confused” and “disoriented” at a meeting the month before with the board of the CNCS, and that he didn’t get on well with the board of the CNCS.  (Translation:  He’s senile and the company he’s auditing doesn’t like him.)

Did I mention that Kevin Johnson is a former NBA star and strong supporter of Obama?  Did I also mention that it is recognized that Inspector Generals are in a very sensitive spot and are supposed to be protected from influence by political appointees and the White House?

First, as far as the relationship between the board of the CNCS and its Inspector General, it should be professional but not necessarily cozy.  Coziness breeds collusion which breeds corruption.  Cooking the books with Enron and Arthur Anderson comes to mind.  Under the circumstances, it is the board and not the Inspector General that should be replaced for any irregularities in the relationship.

Secondly, I would question Mr. Walpin’s sanity and IQ if he were not “confused” and “disoriented,” both last month and on a continuing basis.

I would think that the following would be some of issues of confusion:

  1. If I have been successful in discovering the misuse of funds and presenting a case with so much evidence that the board had to take action on, how could I be that “confused and disoriented”?
  2. Why isn’t someone pointing out to the board of the CNCS that they should be glad that someone is discovering the misuse of tax money flowing through them rather than letting it become one more overly corrupt government institution?  In the spirit of transparency and tracking the abuse of tax money (stated recently as a given by Vice President Biden), why was I not given a medal for doing an exceptional job?
  3. Why did the Sacramento Attorney General go behind my back with CNCS to lift the suspension on Kevin Johnson and undermine the power of the fear of real punishment for other abusers of taxpayer dollars?
  4. Why is the President of the United States trying to get around a law that he himself cosponsored the year before when he was a Senator?

As far being “disoriented,’ if Mr. Walpin was or is disoriented, I can identify.  I have found myself wondering where I am in the past few months.  He may be wondering: Am I really in a country where a government official is fired for finding corruption?  Am I really being smeared after serving my country well?  With the promises of watch dogging taxpayer dollars, why isn’t the government they taking uncovered abuses seriously?  In my case, I wonder: Can the government really subvert bankruptcy laws and rob money from pensioners?  How can the citizens be 5 to 1 against bailouts of companies and yet we end up with bailouts?  How can a political payback with earmarks (when the head of the House of Representatives emphatically promised, “NO EARMARKS”) be passed by our elected representatives and seriously called a “stimulus”?  How can the head of a capitalistic government fire a CEO, then make a gift of part of car companies to the UAW, and proceed to try to run the industry? Am I really in America?

I consider any disorientation that Mr. Walpin experienced or continues to experience is a sign of his high intelligence.  I’m right there with you, Mr. Walpin, confused and disoriented as heck.  At the end of the month, when our elected representatives in Congress don’t stand up to the President and uphold your firing, I will fall with you as well.

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Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 7:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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