President Barack Obama nominated Deborah Jeffrey last week to serve as Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a second attempt by the president to fill a position that was vacated amid controversy in 2009.
Jeffrey is a partner at the law firm Zuckerman Spaeder. Before joining Zuckerman Spaeder as an associate in 1989, Ms. Jeffrey worked as an associate at Hogan & Hartson from 1986 to 1989. Ms. Jeffrey holds a B.A. in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
She would be the first confirmed IG for CNCS since the president fired Gerald Walpin in 2009. Walpin, who was appointed by George W. Bush, was let go in June of 2009 a week after he questioned the legitimacy of grants made to one of AmeriCorps’ largest partners, the Teaching Fellows Program, which is run by the Research Foundation of the City University of New York.
Walpin had also questioned the propriety of a settlement made with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson over alleged misuse of CNCS funds at a charter school he led before being elected.
Jonathan Andrew Hatfield, the deputy inspector general at the Federal Election Commission, was nominated in January of 2011 to succeed Walpin, but he withdrew from consideration in April of 2011.
Jeffrey’s nomination comes just weeks after Obama nominated Wendy Spencer to succeed Patrick Corvington as CEO of the corporation. Spencer has worked on Capitol Hill, has headed Volunteer Florida since 2003 and served as a member of President George W. Bush’s President’s Council of Service and Civic Participation.
CNCS received a major boost in April of 2009 when Obama signed the Serve America Act, which authorized the expansion of AmeriCorps from 75,000 slots to 250,000 over five years.
Months later, the IG’s office released an evaluation – started by Walpin and finished by Assistant IG Stuart Axenfeld – citing overspending and other management concerns at CNCS. Former House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey (D-Wis.), who left Congress in 2011, trimmed the CNCS budget by $90 million in 2010 and noted that the committee would “consider further expansion of service and volunteer programs once the Corporation for National and Community Service has demonstrated that it has made improvements in its internal operations.”
In the past two fiscal years, the Republican-led House of Representatives has targeted most of CNCS for elimination. A House Appropriations Committee draft bill for fiscal 2012 proposes to reduce the CNCS budget from $1.1 billion to $279.5 million, and includes no money for AmeriCorps.
The fiscal 2011 spending deal reached last spring kept CNCS funding about level, and some service-learning advocates believe the administration protected the agency during the final hours of budget negotiations. A fiscal 2012 agreement has not been reached; a recently approved spending bill included a continuing resolution that gives Congress until Dec. 16 to approve corporation funding.
CNCS Chief Operating Officer Robert Velasco II has served as acting CEO of the agency since May. The IG office currently does not have a leader. Deputy Inspector General Ken Bach was serving as acting IG until recently, but his time as an acting leader ran out under the Vacancy Act.