Inspector general wants hearing with fair judge
Case suggests retaliation for queries over money deals by Obama's buddy

Posted: September 05, 2010
7:23 pm Eastern

By Brian Fitzpatrick
© 2010 WorldNetDaily

Former Inspector General Gerald Walpin
WASHINGTON – Fired Inspector General Gerald Walpin is asking that his lawsuit challenging his abrupt and apparently illegal dismissal by the Obama administration be reinstated – and he wants a new judge assigned to the case.

A Washington Times editorial published September 1 suggests that District Judge Richard W. Roberts has not presided over Walpin's case with professional impartiality.

The editorial details extensive personal and professional ties between Roberts and Obama Attorney General Eric Holder, the boss of the Department of Justice lawyers defending the administration against Walpin's suit.

According to the Times, Roberts and Holder have been close personal friends for decades.

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Roberts worked for Holder in the Department of Justice during the Clinton administration, and Holder helped Roberts ascend to the federal bench in 1998.

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White House Special Counsel Norman L. Eisen removed Walpin from his office as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Services in June 2009.

The dismissal came several months after Walpin submitted two reports that proved highly embarrassing to the Obama administration.

The more prominent report found that Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, a Obama supporter, had misused more than $800,000 in federal grant money while running a Sacramento charter school, St. HOPE Academy. The government subsequently suspended Johnson's eligibility for receiving federal funding.

Obama's attorney fired Walpin without providing Congress the written explanation and the 30 days notice required by the Inspector General Reform Act – a law co-sponsored by then-Sen. Obama to protect inspectors general from political interference and retaliation. Walpin sued to be reinstated.

Roberts dismissed Walpin's suit on June 17 of this year, on the grounds that the act does not guarantee that even an illegally fired inspector general will get his job back.

In an August 30 brief, attorneys representing Walpin asked the district court of the District of Columbia to reinstate the case, and either reassign it to another judge or order Roberts to adjudicate it swiftly and fairly.

The brief argues that Roberts repeatedly ignored deadlines, denying Walpin swift justice and dragging the case out for nearly a year, to the benefit of the Obama administration. Conversely, it also points out that Roberts took less than 24 hours to reject Walpin's nearly 500-page motion for a preliminary injunction.

As Walpin's attorneys pointed out, the motion constituted "a volume realistically impossible to digest in that short time."

Roberts rejected the motion in one terse sentence: "Plaintiff had failed to make an adequate showing that he risks suffering irreparable injury."

As WND reported at the time, the White House fired Walpin from his watchdog position following his exposure of the incidents of sexual misconduct and gross misappropriation of federal funds by Johnson, a prominent Obama supporter.

Roberts' opinion said simply the inspectors do not have "an enforceable right to continued employment."

There were claims then the decision was tainted because of ties between Roberts and the White Hosue.

Roberts, a graduate of Vassar College, earlier this year introduced Holder at a campus lecture there, pondering, "What could I share about what I know of his life's spicy moments?" before assuring the attorney general, "It's OK. … I've got your back."

"On the surface it may not look like much, but the cronyism runs very, very deep here," commented Greg Hedgepath of the Politics & Capitalism blog at the time. "This judge that dismissed the case is somewhat beholden to Eric Holder for his accelerated success in the D.C. Beltway."

Byron York of the Washington Examiner expressed a larger concern: "If the decision by U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts stands, in the future the White House will be able fire other inspectors general as it fired Walpin without fear of legal consequences."

It was back in 2008 when Walpin was overseeing an investigation of St. HOPE Academy, a charter school founded and operated by Johnson, a former NBA star and self-described friend of Obama, that the case started developing. Walpin referred Johnson to the U.S. attorney's office for criminal and civil prosecution for "false and fraudulent conduct in connection with $845,018.75 in federal funds.

According to Walpin's referral, St. HOPE used members of AmeriCorps – which is run by the Corporation for National and Community Services – for political campaigning to re-elect board of education incumbents, and the hours spent on those elections were improperly recorded as AmeriCorps service hours.

"The money was given to St. HOPE to finance AmeriCorps members, who are basically volunteers that they call members, to do tutoring in schools among disadvantaged students," Walpin told Eric Hogue of Hogue News. "My investigation found they didn't use the AmeriCorps members for tutoring; they used them to drive Mr. Johnson around, to wash his car, to do all sorts of janitorial and administrative work [that] the money wasn't given to them for."

Johnson's eligibility to receive federal grants was consequently suspended Sept. 24, 2008.

Despite Johnson's proven misconduct, the voters of Sacramento elected him mayor less than two months later. But when, in February 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the city of Sacramento's eligibility to receive stimulus funds under the act was thought to be threatened by Johnson's suspension.

The U.S. attorney's office, headed by acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown, then worked out a favorable settlement for Johnson that reinstated his eligibility to receive federal funds.

According to a joint congressional report by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., however, the settlement included "no meaningful guarantee" that the United States ever would actually collect any payments from St. HOPE.

Walpin had been shut out of the settlement negotiations by Brown, eventually complaining to the board that oversees AmeriCorps funding. That prompted Brown to file a complaint against Walpin.

Three weeks later, Walpin received a phone call from the White House telling him to resign or be fired. Walpin refused the phone ultimatum and was fired 45 minutes later, despite a law requiring the president to give 30 days' notice to Congress before removing an inspector general and to explain the reasons for doing so.

And while the firing alone was enough to trigger Grassley's demand for an investigation and an initial report in June 2009, documents cited in Grassley and Issa's final, joint report cast the firing in an even more political light:

Brown, sometimes referred to in the press as a Republican critic of Walpin, actually left the GOP in 1988 and registered as a Democrat through 2007.

Brown wrote a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in the midst of the Johnson investigation, laying out his qualifications for and seeking a political appointment to the U.S. attorney position. The congressional investigation report concludes, "It would be reasonable for an already skeptical public to wonder whether Brown excluded Inspector General Walpin from negotiations and settled the St. HOPE matter with Johnson in order to curry favor with the White House because Brown wanted the president to appoint him."

Brown and Matthew Jacobs, Kevin Johnson's attorney, frequently exchanged informal e-mails deriding and scoffing over Walpin, e-mails the report states "do not suggest an appropriately arm's-length negotiating relationship." Further, the report states, "Together with his efforts to obtain a political appointment from the president, Brown's communications with Johnson's attorney contribute to the appearance that Walpin's removal was more about his vigorous pursuit of the St. HOPE matter than about any other legitimate, unrelated factors."

An internal memo reveals that the White House considered issues in deciding to remove Walpin that it did not disclose in the official notice to Congress, including a complaint about Walpin's investigation of another Obama political ally in New York.
Grassley and Issa concluded, "None of the documents produced after the publication of our initial report undermine or conflict with the conclusions of the [final] report. Arguably, some of the new documents could actually reinforce the public perception that the inspector general was removed for political reasons.

"In particular, the revelation that the acting U.S. attorney was seeking a presidential appointment at the time he filed a complaint against Walpin puts that complaint in a different light," they continue. "Moreover, the fact that the White House allowed the documents to be withheld for so long and that it required so much effort to finally obtain them also suggests a lack of transparency that is inconsistent with the goals repeatedly articulated by President Obama for a more open and accountable administration."