June 12, 2009
Controversy has erupted over President Obama’s firing of Inspector General Gerald Walprin, a Bush appointee who was tasked with investigating fraud and misuse inside of the Corporation for National and Community Service, an umbrella organization for service under Homeland Security that includes AmeriCorps and many other related groups.
Although Obama has complained that Walprin was “exercising his power as president,” questions have been raised as to whether Obama’s real motive centers around an ongoing investigation into friend and fellow ’service’ advocate Kevin Johnson, mayor of Sacramento and founder of youth program ‘Hood Corps.’
Inspector General Walprin alleged that Kevin Johnson misused AmeriCorps funds allocated to Hood Corps.
According to the Sacramento Bee:
The IG found that Johnson, a former all-star point guard for the Phoenix Suns, had used AmeriCorps grants to pay volunteers to engage in school-board political activities, run personal errands for Johnson and even wash his car.
Walpin has also charged that Johnson took AmeriCorps members to New York “to promote the expansion of St HOPE operations in Harlem,” a purpose, he says, that was not authorized by the grant.
Johnson has been an Obama supporter and was one of only a few mayors invited to meet with the President and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to discuss how stimulus money can be spent in their local communities.
It may have been a desire to avoid negative press about AmeriCorps-related programs that drove the president to axe the Investigator General, and with it the investigation. Obama has clearly worked to expand AmeriCorps and may have reacted to shut down embarrassment about improperly used funds within the program.
Patty Kelley has suggested as much in the Boston Examiner:
The removal of Gerald Walpin, the current Inspector General who investigates AmeriCorps and other national service programs by the President himself is interesting in itself. More interesting, the change comes after his friend was cited for misuse of funds through his nonprofit group.
National Service has been curiously at the forefront of Obama’s presidency and a part of the former community organizer’s image. His now WH Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gained attention for his 2006 ‘The Plan,’ a policy book advocating compulsory service. Already, his administration has passed the GIVE Act, which extends AmeriCorps funding, and a further bill for mandatory service has now been introduced in Congress.
During his presidential campaign, Obama appeared at the Service Nation-sponsored 9/11 Presidential Forum on National Service, where the expansion of the national service agenda was made clear. His stated plans included a civilian expeditionary force which would back up military and assist in nation building overseas in places like Afghanistan. This force has been announced in the Obama administration under DoD 1404.10.
TV ads for AmeriCorps-affiliated City Year are also now running major promotion for the service agenda, which has been pushed not only by Obama and Emanuel, but high-level advisors such as David Gergen. City Year has announced plans to mobilize service activities around the September 11 anniversary.
Mayor Kevin Johnson had reportedly settled the dispute over funds with the U.S. Attorney’s office as of April 9, 2009, at a time when he was working closely with the Obama Administration about receiving stimulus funds.
Sacramento Bee reported that Walprin “has no doubt he acted properly in investigating the Sacramento mayor.” Other investigators “said Walpin had identified millions of dollars in AmeriCorps funds that were wasted or misspent” and that “it appears he has been doing a good job.”
The investigation has been on-going for sometime, and Walprin himself brought embarrassing questions to Johnson during his run for mayor in 2007.
Walpin’s office made repeated public comments just before the Sacramento mayoral election, prompting the U.S. attorney’s office to inform the media that it did not intend to file any criminal charges.
For his part, Johnson has denied any wrongdoing. Instead, the AP reported, he “blamed unnamed political enemies for the investigation and criticized the federal government for having grant requirements he said are too difficult to follow.”
Mayor Johnson was also instrumental in “helping” Governor Schwarzenegger force Sacramento’s homeless out of tent cities and relocating them to the Cal Expo, where strict policy, including in & out privileges, limit the freedom of its temporary residents.
This article was posted: Saturday, June 13, 2009 at 5:15 am