DECEMBER 23, 2009
Violating its own guarantee of unprecedented transparency, the White House is blocking an investigation into the controversial firing of an inspector general who exposed one of President Obama’s political supporters—a California mayor—for misusing federal funds.
First Lady Michelle Obama was reportedly behind the contentious June dismissal of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin and congressional investigators want to interview the aide (Jackie Norris) who may have given the order. At the time Norris was the First Lady’s chief of staff but the White House counsel’s office has blocked investigators from interviewing her, according to a national news report.
Norris is currently a senior advisor at the organization that oversees AmeriCorps, the country’s national services program which annually receives millions of federal dollars to conquer everything from illiteracy to affordable housing and the environment. During his tenure as inspector general, Walpin exposed a multi million-dollar fraud scheme in AmeriCorps’ most expensive program, a teaching fellow project at the City University of New York, and he busted a Sacramento charity, operated by a powerful Obama ally who happens to be the city’s mayor, for misusing nearly $1 million in federal grants.
The mayor (Obama pal Kevin Johnson) illegally used the money to pay volunteers for political activities, run personal errands and even wash his car. Johnson, a former professional basketball player, acknowledged that there “may have been administrative errors” and reached a settlement with federal prosecutors to repay about half of the money. This certainly indicates that Walpin did his job of rooting out government fraud, waste and abuse quite efficiently.
It also explains why Obama has yet to come up with a valid reason—other than retaliation for busting his corrupt friend—to fire Walpin. The president violated a law that safeguards the independence of government agency watchdogs and the Democratic senator (Missouri’s Claire McCaskill) who authored the measure blasted the commander-in-chief for removing an inspector general who exposed widespread waste in taxpayer-financed community service groups.
Obama “failed to follow the proper procedure” in notifying Congress about the removal and for failing to give a valid reason for the termination, according to McCaskill. Obama first said that he lost confidence in Walpin and later amended the story by claiming that that the otherwise efficient watchdog was “confused” and “disoriented” at a meeting.
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