Because of growing controversy over the firing of AmeriCorps IG Gerald Walpin, the White House has proffered additional reasons (some might say "reasons") why the President had lost confidence in him.
After Senator Claire McCaskill (D. Mo.) expressed concern that President Obama's Thursday letter saying that he had lost confidence in Walpin did not satisfy the requirements of the Inspector General Reform Act that the President provide "reasons" for the firing, presidential aide Norm Eisen (who reportedly told Walpin to resign or be fired) sent a letter to Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, the Chairman and ranking minority member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (with a copy to McCaskill), outlining a number of reasons Walpin was let go. It read:
Mr. Walpin was removed after a review was unanimously requested by the bi-partisan Board of the Corporation. The Board's action was precipitated by a May 20, 2009 Board meeting at which Mr. Walpin was confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior that led the Board to question his capacity to serve. Upon our review, we also determined that the Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California, a career prosecutor who was appointed to his post during the Bush Administration, had filed a complaint about Mr. Walpin's conduct with the oversight body for Inspectors General, including for failing to disclose exculpatory evidence. We further learned that Mr. Walpin had been absent from the Corporation's headquarters, insisting upon working from his home in New York over the objections of the Corporation's Board; that he had exhibited a lack of candor in providing material information to decision makers; and that he has engaged in other troubling and inappropriate conduct. Mr. Walpin had become unduly disruptive to agency operations, impairing his effectiveness and, for the reasons stated above, losing the confidence of the Board and the agency. It was for these reasons that Mr. Walpin was removed.
The Eisen letter defended the earlier, spare statement of reasons the President sent last Thursday, saying it was consistent with past practice and, as I suggested in my earlier post, consistent with the Executive Branch's reading of the statute:
We of course recognize your view of the requirements for the formal notice letter which we submitted to Congress last week. That letter was prepared based on long practice with respect to the form of such letters and the Administration's view of the statute.
Walpin denies it all, saying that the White House is "grasping at nonexistent straws" to justify his termination.
In other news, based on the description of Walpin as "confused [and] disoriented," he has been asked to take Ron Wood's spot playing guitar for the upcoming Rolling Stones tour. Although in the interests of accuracy I should that I just now made that up. (And before you start sending me vitriol-filled emails, note I'm a huge Stones and Woody fan from way back.)
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE (Wednesday night). Senator Grassley, apparently not satisfied by Mr. Eisen's proffered explanation for the firing, responded with a new letter to Counsel Gregory Craig setting forth 12 questions. Those included "Did the CNCS Board communicate its concerns about Mr. Walpin to the White House in writing?," "Was the communication about the Board's concerns on or about May 20, 2009 the first instance of any communications with White House personnel regarding the possibility of removing Mr. Walpin?," several questions about whether Walpin was asked for his response to the Acting U.S. Attorney's allegations or his version of events on May 20, "If Mr. Walpin's telecommuting arrangements since the beginning of this year were a major concern, then why was Mr. Walpin not simply asked to stop telecommuting?," and perhaps most pointedly, "If the initial and primary concern had to do with Mr. Walpin's capacity to serve for potential health reasons, why was he only given one hour to decide whether to resign or be fired?"
Senator McCaskill, meanwhile, seems more satisfied by the Eisen letter, which, she said, "now puts the White House in full compliance with the notice requirement in the [IG Act]." She said the reasons were "substantial and the decision to remove Walpin appears well founded," although she added that "[t]he next step for Congress is to use the 30 days provided by the notice [before the termination becomes effective under the IG Reform Act of 2008] to seek further information and undertake any further review that might be necessary."
Related Posts (on one page):
- UPDATE -- The White House Provides Further Detail On Walpin Firing And Confirms Interpretation Of IG Act:
- AmeriCorps Inspector General Walpin Fired -- Some Preliminary Observations: