Two influential Republican senators have asked for a hearing on the firing of Gerald Walpin as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Serving (CNCS), saying that their efforts to get additional information about the firing from the White House and the corporation have been unsuccessful.
In a letter released late Monday, Sens. Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee (HELP), and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), senior Republican on the committee, implored committee chairman Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) to join in a bipartisan investigation of the matter. The HELP committee has oversight of CNCS.
Enzi and Hatch were key supporters of the recently passed Service America Act, which among other things authorizes an expansion of AmeriCorps to 250,000 members by 2017.
Melissa Wagoner, a spokeswoman for Kennedy, said Kennedy’s office was reviewing the proposal this morning.
Walpin has said he would welcome a hearing to clear his reputation against insinuations that he has dementia.
Firing Raises Questions
Enzi and Hatch are among several members of Congress who have sought more information about the way Walpin was fired and the stated reasoning behind his firing. Others include Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), all backers of the inspector general reform legislation passed last year.
Walpin was notified June 10 in a call from the White House counsel’s office that he had an hour to resign or be removed. Walpin declined to resign. The Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 calls for the president to notify Congress 30 days prior to an inspector general’s dismissal and to state a specific reason for the removal.
The White House sent a letter to Congress on June 11 saying only that the president had lost confidence in Walpin. After several members of Congress said that letter was not sufficient under the law, the White House sent a letter on June 16 saying that Walpin had been confused, disoriented and unable to answer questions at a CNCS board meeting on May 20.
But in their request, Enzi and Hatch cited a letter signed by more than 100 prominent members of the New York bar, including former attorney general Michael Mukasey and former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum, attesting to Walpin’s integrity and mental capacity.
Critics claim that Walpin was fired because he challenged an agreement to settle allegations of improper spending of grant money by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, an ally of President Barack Obama and the former head of a group that received more than $850,000 in AmeriCorps funding.
Walpin had also challenged the AmeriCorps funding for the Research Foundation of the City University of New York, contending that the government was getting nothing for the $75 million it has spent to support the university’s Teaching Fellows program.
The letter by Enzi and Hatch said they were requesting the hearing because repeated requests to the White House had yielded no new information about the firing. They said the White House had “declined” to answer four questions about whether Walpin’s firing complied with the procedure required under the Inspector General Reform Act.
The letter said the White House counsel’s office referred them to the CNCS and its board, but that they had been thwarted in reaching board members, that the CNCS general counsel had questioned the appropriateness of having committee investigators interview the nine board members, and that CNCS officials have said they “were still working on our request but providing neither documents nor a delivery timeframe.”