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Posted at 1:17 PM ET, 01/ 4/2011

Watchdog fired by Obama loses appeals case

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 5:27 p.m. ET
A three-judge panel rejected appeals Tuesday by Gerald Walpin, a former federal watchdog fired by President Obama in 2009, likely ending his attempts to get back his old job.

Gerald Walpin
Former Corporation for National and Community Service Inspector General Gerald Walpin. (AP)

Walpin was appointed inspector general for the agency overseeing AmeriCorps during George W. Bush's administration and filed suit in July 2009 shortly after his dismissal.

But in a unanimous seven-page ruling issued Tuesday, judges with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously affirmed a previous district court decision, stating that Walpin "does not have a 'clear and indisputable right' " to reinstatement.

In an interview, Walpin said he was disappointed by the decision, "not for myself but for the institution of inspectors general," because the court decision "has effectively removed any meaning" to a 2008 inspector general reform law.

The law, cosponsored by then-Sen. Obama and lawmakers of both parties, requires a president to give 30 days' written notice to Congress before removing an inspector general.

In one of the first partisan-fueled disagreements of the Obama presidency, lawmakers argued that the administration failed to follow the law when White House lawyers phoned Walpin requesting his immediate resignation and subsequently fired him when he refused.

The phone call came from White House ethics lawyer Norman Eisen, who earned a recess appointment last month to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic after Republican senators held up his confirmation because of the Walpin affair.

Administration officials defended the firing by raising several concerns about his performance, including a May 2009 board meeting of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), where he appeared confused, disoriented and unable to answer questions.

Walpin, a lifelong Republican, claimed that Obama's decision jeopardized the political independence of the federal government's six dozen inspectors general, who are tasked with investigating allegations of waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement. He also alleged that the White House was eager to remove him after investigating the misuse of AmeriCorps funding given to a Sacramento school operated by former National Basketball Association star Kevin Johnson, who supported Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Johnson now serves as Sacramento mayor and is engaged to former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Veteran observers of government oversight efforts once again dismissed Walpin's concerns on Tuesday.

"The Walpin case wasn't very strong to start with and the unanimous ruling demonstrates that," said Gary Bass, founder of OMB Watch, a "good government group" that tracks executive branch activities. "The decision is yet another vindication for Eisen that he didn't do anything wrong or improper," he said.

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, "wasn't remotely surprised" by Tuesday's ruling, she said, calling Walpin's claims "bogus." If Congress wants to have any say on the president's removal of federal watchdogs, it should pass tougher measures that outline specific grounds for potential removal, she said.

Two of the three federal appeals court judges who rendered Tuesday's decision are Republican appointees. Karen LeCraft Henderson, who wrote the unanimous decision, was appointed to the court in 1990 by George H. W. Bush; David S. Tatel was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1994; and George W. Bush named Thomas B. Griffith to the appeals court in 2005.

Walpin is unsure whether he will appeal his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but said it is "exceedingly unlikely" the high court would consider it.

"I didn't need this lawsuit or the job, but I thought it was a good public service and a way to contribute to this wonderful country," Walpin said.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

RELATED: Federal Eye coverage of the Gerald Walpin case

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By Ed O'Keefe  | January 4, 2011; 1:17 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Oversight, Supreme Court  
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Comments

You know, sometimes people get fired for doing their job badly, even in Washington.

Posted by: OldUncleTom | January 4, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

This is an extremely corrupt administration. Go get 'em Darrell.

Posted by: tulsa_dave | January 4, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Walpin should elevate it to the Supreme Court...why stop now?

Posted by: dottydo | January 4, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Walpin should elevate it to the Supreme Court...why stop now?

Posted by: dottydo | January 4, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Testified at a hearing "where he appeared confused, disoriented and unable to answer questions."

He saw that it worked for Alberto Gonzales and thought he'd give it a shot too.

Posted by: bdunn1 | January 4, 2011 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Inspector General in the Bush administration? Talk about calling it in. Wonder what he did for 8 years... actually I'd sue too, I mean that position has to be on page one of the Plum book.

Posted by: WmLaney | January 4, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I find it interesting that the merits of Walpin's case was never investigated by the "mainstream media." He clearly was fired without 30 days notice. But more important, he was probably fired for going after an "FOB," Kevin Johnson. That is what may really have happened here. The "mainstream media" can send reporters to Alaska to see if you can see Russia from Sarah Palin's house, but no one is assigned to investigate possible abuse of power by the Executive Branch. Such is the state of the "mainstream media" today.

Posted by: NJcalling | January 4, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Walpin should be aware that it’s a privilege, not a right to report verified public corruption and verified crime with the expectation that it will be
objectively investigated by the United States Attorney’s office, the Department of Justice or any other oversight authority and especially the office of the inspectors general.

Additionally, if you are not politically connected, you will be subjected to retaliation and strong-arm tactics by federal law enforcement.

Reporting crime to the people who are committing the crime yields no results and only allows cover up via false denials, threats and retaliation.

If the DOJ knows there are no rules and no laws, anything goes against anyone.


dougkinan@yahoo.com

Posted by: dougkinan | January 4, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Walpin should be aware that it’s a privilege, not a right to report verified public corruption and verified crime with the expectation that it will be
objectively investigated by the United States Attorney’s office, the Department of Justice, any other oversight authority and especially the office of the inspectors general.

Additionally, if you are not politically connected, you will be subjected to retaliation and strong-arm tactics by federal law enforcement.

Reporting crime to the people who are committing the crime yields no results and only allows cover up via false denials, threats and retaliation.

If the DOJ knows there are no rules and no laws, anything goes against anyone.

Posted by: dougkinan | January 4, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I love the post about Mainstream media. um... both sides went to court, presented their cases, and a 3 judge panel, primarily made up of Republican judges, ruled against the guy. What do you want the mainstream media to do? Assume that ANY loss for a Republican under any circumstances, MUST be bogus and therefore worthy of a task force investigation into the veracity of the judging panel? One of your Republican drones lost a case. Shut up and deal with it already.

Posted by: mfischer1 | January 4, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

SHUT UP MR. INSPECTOR GENERAL! GO SIT IN YOUR CORNER AND DON'T YOU DARE COMPLAIN! YOU EXPECT TO GET JUSTICE FROM OBAMA'S COURTS? LOL. ACHTUNG!!!

Posted by: barrysal | January 4, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Dear mrfischer, the court case did not check the veracity of the claim of Darrell, it merely decided if he could be re-instated in his job. So NJCalling was trying to point out that the REASON for his firing was never investigated by the mainstream press, not that the appeal for his firing was decided by any particular political party judges...As an Independent who supported Obama, I believe the reason for this man's firing should have been looked into and the mere fact the law wasn't followed says volumes about who has to follow the laws....those on the receiving end only???

Posted by: calkyle | January 4, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Neither law nor principles nor a good man's reputation will stand in the way of our thin-skinned, weak-minded President getting his way. Mr. Walpin has earned the admiration of many for standing up to Obama's skul-thuggery. If a president could be impeached--and his overrated staff tossed out--for overweening arrogance, Himself would have been out long ago. What the administration did to Mr. Walpin is god-awful and, like ObamaCare, a show of brute force and nothing more. Please 2012 don't be late.

Posted by: CTSKINSFAN2 | January 4, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Yes...as a quick follow-up. Darrell's staff claimed that there was no "confusion" at a May 2009 Board Meeting. The staff stood by Darrell. Why didn't any "mainstream media" interview his staff? Try to find out what really happened and why?

Posted by: NJcalling | January 4, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I agree one hundred percent with that old confused, disoriented Republican unable to answer questions; America IS a wonderful country!

It appears that Walpin was working for the Small Potatoes Division, making sure that poor people weren’t ripping off AmeriCorps. Were the kids at that school asking for too many basketballs? on the other hand, I’ll bet there are 10 copies of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ in their library.

Meanwhile, the competent Big Dog inspector generals were auditing the Big Stuff and found that U.S. officials failed to account for $8.7 billion of the $9.1 billion of Iraqi oil proceeds (95%!!!) used in the Development Fund for Iraq.
Where is that story? Not on Fox News-- you can only find it in the “Mainstream (Liberal) Media”:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/26/AR2010072605535.html

Posted by: bettypagelookalike | January 4, 2011 5:37 PM | Report abuse

another program that needs to be defunded. At $25,000 per student enrolled its obscene for picking up papers, babysitting and sweeping

Posted by: mandinka2 | January 4, 2011 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Oh, here’s something interesting about Inspector Generals that all you Tea Partiers should be concerned about:

“Based on my firsthand knowledge, that office (Department of Defense Inspector General's office) is "dysfunctional" and has a verified record of covering up public corruption and verified criminal activity, subsidized by billions of taxpayer dollars.”

This post can be found in the Comments January 4, 2011 8:56 AM at:
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2011/01/john-wheeler-former-bush-admin.html?wprss=44

Posted by: bettypagelookalike | January 4, 2011 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Not surprised Walpin lost in the courts. The law is weak in this area; fuzzy and subject to manipulation, which we can see in spades by virtue of how the administration handled things re: Walpin' dismissal.

That said, I made it my business to read just about everything on this matter, back to the initial correspondence and documentation. I did this out of curiosity because the case is so unusual in a number of ways. And because I admire and value the stated role of Inspectors General and do not want the function to be undermined and essentially neutered

Lots of things came out in my study of the case that wouldn't be relevant to the narrow question of the administration violating a law or to the question of whether Walpin could be reinstated via a court ruling. But they are very relevant to understanding the forces at work and figuring out why Walpin was being shafted and silenced to serve other agendas and protect people in high places.

Virtually no one else will ever pick this series of events apart as I have done. Just let me say this (as a non-party person) ... it may be "legal", but it is definitely shameful and trust-eroding.

For me, the whole "transparency thing" went up in smoke when this firing happened as it did, and the subsequent stonewalling and changing of stories simply underlines how shaky it was in the first place.

I thank Judge Walpin. He didn't need the job or money and didn't deserve the aggravation after he had retired from a very distinguished legal career. But he fought to make sure this came out into the open as best he could.

Posted by: TerryOtt | January 4, 2011 8:01 PM | Report abuse

To BettyPageLookalike:

I looked at the comment you cite, but wonder what point you're making.

That remark in the comments section relates to the Defense Dept IG's office, and I am not surprised by an allegation that it's dysfunctional. If it weren't, we would probably KNOW a lot MORE about the corruption and waste, especially re: Defense procurement practices.

What Walpin represented was the IG who could afford to be candid and put the cards out on the table. He didn't need the job, and his personality is such that he cannot be scared off or threatened with anything. If you look at his accomplishments, you will know what I mean.

When he was fired, dozens of key judges and lawyers, from all points on the political spectrum, spoke out for him in a letter to the White House. They made it a point to say that while many of them disagreed at times with his politics or stances on various things, they all had the utmost respect for his professionalism and credibility.

They went on to say that the Walpin described in the accusations by those that were covering their butts was the opposite of the Walpin they had known over the years of direct contact with him. That's a matter of record.

The fact that Walpin could be booted out when about to bring the big mess at CUNY out in the open, and just after he had identified the misuse of funds by Kevin Johnson (friend of the Administration) simply ensures that the IG function will be (or perhaps continue to be in many instances) a compliant "career-conscious" lapdog in most cases instead of a diligent watchdog.

I am no Tea Partier, not by a long shot. But when you see and smell a rotten situation, it is hard not to connect the dots --- which in this case are beyond obvious.

Do you just not care if we have effective Inspectors General? What did Gerald Walpin do to make you think he deserved being fired in his car by cell phone? It is ironic to learn that he assumed the incoming call was about his ongoing active and enthusiastic support for the appointment of Justice Sotomayor. Guess not, huh?

Posted by: TerryOtt | January 4, 2011 8:29 PM | Report abuse

It is interesting that after a panel of 2 REPUB judges and 1 DEMO judge ALL reach agreement that a judge in incapable of performing the duties of the position and should be remove, some readers feel it is necessay to say that "the Obama administration is corrupt."

Perhaps they need to explain why or are they just going to repeat the words of Rep Issa who has a crimminal record longer than Al Capone...yes he does, just google him and you might be shocked with his background.

Posted by: meyer390 | January 4, 2011 9:52 PM | Report abuse

meyer390:

I think you are misstating the opinions of the 3 judges. As I see it their job was to determine if the administration violated the letter of the law about how an IG can be removed. And if so, does he have as a remedy, a right to take the job back (not that I think he actually would).

Their ruling essentially said that the POTUS doesn't need to articulate any specific reason to fire an IG; that a claim of having lost confidence in the IG is enough.

Essentially, the law intended to insulate IGs from political firings is now null and void. Then-Senator Obama was a sponsor of it, but we now see the law is squishy, window dressing with no real world effect. It's just like a coach being fired, or a CEO, or an employee, for no stated reason (see: "employment at will"). The firee has no recourse but for showing a violation of anti-discrimination law (age, race, gender, handicap, sexual orientation).

So, no, "a panel of 2 REPUB judges and 1 DEMO judge" did not "ALL reach agreement that a judge" (I assume you mean an IG) "in (sic) incapable of performing the duties of the position and should be remove (sic)"...

They just said he could be fired for any reason or no reason at all and that he has no claim to being reinstated. If I am wrong about that, show me.

Posted by: TerryOtt | January 5, 2011 12:58 AM | Report abuse

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