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Holding the Government Accountable

Flagrant Foul?

Even the appearance of political favoritism can cast a shadow on the independence of the IG community

In a letter sent yesterday, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) pushed the Obama administration to consider the legality of an ultimatum issued by the administration to the Corporation for National Community Service’s Inspector General, Gerald Walpin, informing him that if he did not resign within the hour, he would be fired. It was initially reported that the administration did not provide justification for that ultimatum.

Senator Grassley noted in his letter that then-Senator Obama (D-IL) was a cosponsor of last year’s Inspector General Reform Act (P.L. 110-409) which requires that the President inform both Houses of Congress in writing of the reasons for terminating or transferring an IG at least 30 days before such termination. That section of the legislation was intended to protect the independence of IGs by ensuring that such decisions are based on merit rather than politics.

Grassley also noted in his letter that “There have been no negative findings against Mr. Walpin by the Integrity Committee of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), and he has identified millions of dollars in Americorps funds either wasted outright or spent in violation of established guidelines. In other words, it appears he has been doing his job.”

Subsequent reports have suggested that Walpin was terminated in response to his investigation into an organization run by former NBA star and prominent Obama supporter, Kevin Johnson. The AP reported that White House Counsel Gregory Craig cited criticism of Walpin’s handling of an investigation into Johnson’s organization by an acting U.S. attorney as justification for the firing, in response to Grassley’s letter.

Whatever the merits of the administration’s decision to terminate Gerald Walpin, we feel strongly that the President should fully inform Congress of the justification for such decisions, in accordance with the IG Reform Act, so as to protect the independence of IGs. As we noted in our first report on the IG system, Inspectors General: Many Lack Essential Tools for Independence, “an IG who lacks independence is unlikely to be effective.” Even the appearance of political favoritism can cast a shadow on the independence of the IG community.