Was Walpin on the trail of hush money when Obama fired him?
posted at 11:36 am on November 20, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Why did the White House act so quickly to fire Gerald Walpin and attempt to discredit him with allegations of senility? Until now, it appeared that the Obama administration got angry with Walpin for publicly opposing a settlement with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson on allegations of fraud in handling federal funds that would have allowed Johnson to continue to receive such funds. Now, however, the Washington Examiner reports that a Congressional inquiry has discovered that Johnson may have used that money to pay off women accusing him of sexual harassment — and that Walpin had gotten too close to the truth:
In the spring of 2008, Walpin’s office received a tip that Johnson had misused AmeriCorps money. Walpin sent two investigators to Sacramento to check the story out. They discovered that money had in fact been misused, and also learned of the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by Johnson.
In August 2008, at the time Walpin referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney, he also presented the evidence of misuse of federal money to officials at the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps. In September 2008, those officials barred Johnson from receiving any more federal money.
All this was happening as Johnson was running for mayor of Sacramento, a race he won in November 2008. Johnson’s suspension from receiving federal money became a hot issue in early 2009 after Congress passed the $787 billion stimulus bill. Many people in Sacramento worried that the city would not be able to get its share of that money if the mayor was banned from receiving federal dollars. …
The new report strongly suggests that Walpin was in fact fired because of the dispute over St. Hope and concludes that the White House “orchestrated an after-the-fact smear campaign to justify” Walpin’s dismissal.
The report says the allegations of sexual misconduct and a cover-up “provide important context for Walpin’s insistence that the St. Hope matter should not have been settled without further inquiry.” In light of those allegations, the report says, complaints that Walpin was being too aggressive seem unfounded. “The content of the referral tends to undermine any notion that the [inspector general’s] investigation was driven by inappropriate motives on the part of Walpin,” the report says. “Rather, it appears to have been driven by non-political, career investigators simply following the facts.”
Who allegedly arranged for the transfer of hush money? In one of the stranger twists in an already strange story, Johnson’s fiancee Michelle Rhee — better known now as the head of the Washington DC school district:
At the time, Rhee was on the board of St. Hope. A former St. Hope employee who reported one of the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by Johnson told Walpin’s investigators that Rhee “learned of the allegations and played the role of a fixer, doing ‘damage control,'” the congressional report says.
The employee told investigators that Rhee told her that “she was making this her number one priority, and she would take care of the situation.” A short time later, the employee learned that the girl who had complained about Johnson had received a visit from Johnson’s personal attorney.
The congressional report quotes the girl as saying the attorney “basically asked me to keep quiet,” and Johnson offered her $1,000 a month for the duration of her time with St. Hope. Once investigators learned about that, the report says, they had “reasonable suspicions about potential hush money payments and witness tampering at a federally funded entity.”
In other words,Walpin had plenty of reason to oppose the slap on the wrist that Johnson received. It wasn’t just the initial misuse of federal funds, but a reasonable suspicion that Johnson and Rhee used the money for personal payoffs to keep Johnson’s bid for mayor alive.
Not only does Congress need to investigate the firing of Walpin in and of itself, it needs to open an investigation into the Corporation for National and Community Service and how much the White House knew of Walpin’s suspicions. If they fired Walpin and publicly smeared him to protect Johnson, an Obama ally, then heads have to roll. Be sure to read it all.