Walpin-gate opens wider

Three new hinges for the case of the fired IG

The Washington Times Editorial
Sunday, November 15, 2009

The case of Gerald Walpin, the controversially fired inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), continues to raise questions about what the Obama administration is hiding.

Two new items and one previously overlooked item are of interest in the case. First, Mr. Walpin filed a legal brief on Nov. 6 that convincingly refutes the arguments in a White House motion to dismiss the lawsuit he had filed demanding that he be reinstated to his job. Second, White House officials met on Tuesday with staff of Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, and narrowed but did not solve their differences over the Obama administration’s withholding of documents related to the firing.

Though the White House has shared with the senator several hundred pages of relevant material, it continues to claim that several hundred more pages are protected by various legal “privileges.” Until Mr. Grassley is satisfied with the level of White House cooperation, he probably will continue his “hold” on the nomination of CNCS Chairman Alan Solomont to be ambassador to Spain.

The previously overlooked item, meanwhile, plays a significant (but not determinative) role in Mr. Walpin’s court filing against the White House’s motion to dismiss. It involves one of the main arguments belatedly advanced by the White House to try to justify the firing – a firing that occurred shortly after Mr. Walpin filed two reports highly embarrassing to political allies of President Obama’s. To explain Mr. Walpin’s termination, the White House had tacitly endorsed a complaint filed by Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown of Sacramento concerning Mr. Walpin’s behavior while compiling one of those two reports. But on Oct. 19, that complaint against Mr. Walpin had been summarily dismissed by the relevant investigator.

The Oct. 19 letter from the Council of Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency said Mr. Walpin had “sufficiently and satisfactorily addressed the matter and that further inquiry or an investigation regarding the matter was not warranted. The [Integrity Committee] has completed its review of the matter.”

In other words, Mr. Walpin had done nothing wrong. The charges against him were bogus.

The rest of Mr. Walpin’s brief makes mincemeat of the White House motion to dismiss his lawsuit. Past Supreme Court decisions show that for someone to be dismissed without even the benefit of oral argument, the court must determine that the plaintiff’s case has no “plausible” grounds. So let’s examine the plausibility:

The crux of Mr. Walpin’s case is that the White House “removed” him from his job without providing 30 days’ notice and without providing Congress with reasons for the removal, both of which requirements are mandated by law. The administration’s legal brief asserts that putting Mr. Walpin on paid administrative leave did not amount to “removal.” That’s awfully odd, considering that the entire reason Congress provided the 30-day window was so IGs could not be blocked from continuing any ongoing investigations that might embarrass an administration.

In this instance, according to Mr. Walpin’s brief, before the administration notified Congress in any way about its unhappiness with Mr. Walpin, it “terminated [his] access to his [own] email account and office, and denied him access to his staff. Mr. Walpin was prevented from performing even the most rudimentary steps in order to ensure that his termination did not prevent the Office of Inspector General from performing its duties.”

A letter from the White House six days after that stated clearly that “Mr. Walpin was removed.” Yet now the White House plays semantics by claiming that being “removed” does not constitute “removal.” This all sounds a bit too much like another Democratic president arguing over the meaning of the word “is.” It is dishonest on its face.

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