Stephen Goldsmith, former board chairman of the Corporation for National and Community Service, has assumed the position of interim board chairman with the expiration of Alan D. Solomont’s term on the board.
Solomont’s term as board chairman expired on Oct. 6., along with his term on the board. Under the new Serve America Act, members of the board may remain for as long as a year after their term expire, in order for a replacement to be named.
Solomont, a major donor and contributions bundler for President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, had thought he’d leave the board chairman position as the new U.S. ambassador to Spain. But days after Solomont’s confirmation hearing for the post last month, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) put a hold on his nomination – until the corporation and other administration officials respond to his request for more information about the June firing of CNCS Inspector General Gerald Walpin.
The hold, which is indefinite, came three months after Grassley first requested extensive documentation, including internal memos and e-mails, about what led to the president’s decision to fire Walpin.
CNCS spokeswoman Ashley Etienne said in an e-mail, “The corporation is working with Sen. Grassley to address the questions that he raised.’
Although Obama last week announced that he has selected Annie E. Casey Foundation official Patrick Corvington to be the new CEO of the corporation, Corvington’s name has not yet gone to the Senate for confirmation. Grassley could place the same type of hold on any CNCS nominee.
The Walpin Episode
Administration officials have said Walpin was fired because he was unresponsive and acted erratically at a May 20 CNCS board meeting and because Walpin and board members, including Solomont, did not get along. They said board members also complained that Walpin preferred to telecommute from his New York home rather than work in Washington, an arrangement the board had approved.
Grassley and some other senators have questioned whether Obama followed the letter and spirit of the Inspector General Reform Act on 2008, which was designed to protect the independent inspectors general from political decisions.
Under the law, the White House is supposed to notify Congress 30 days in advance of dismissal of an inspector general and show cause if an inspector general is removed before the normal expiration of his term.
Walpin was told by White House counsel on June 10 to resign or be fired. He refused to resign and was fired immediately. The next day, the White House notified the leaders of the House and Senate, saying they were giving Walpin 30 days notice. But Walpin was immediately put on administrative leave and an interim replacement was named.
The action against Walpin came after he raised questions about a settlement arranged by the U.S. Attorney in Sacramento involving Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (D) and an AmeriCorps grant received by a group that Johnson had run. Walpin has argued that the settlement did not match the seriousness of the charges involving the misuse of AmeriCorps money.
Walpin also has questioned whether AmeriCorps’ largest program, the Teaching Fellows program at the City University of New York (CUNY), should be eligible for funding, stating that the dire need for teachers in New York City has passed and that the fellows are now displacing other teaching candidates, which violates laws passed by Congress covering AmeriCorps grantees. And he suggested they be required to return as much as $75 million. Interim CEO Nicola Green has said that the corporation will not act on Walpin’s recommendations to ask for a refund.
The program was recently approved for the third year of its current grant, but for $554,300 instead of the $900,000 of the first two years. That will reduce the number of AmeriCorps members at CUNY from 3,600 last year to 2,300. The grant does not include the amounts paid out in educational awards, which are the main cost of the program.
Walpin has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeking reinstatement.