Fox & Friends give Walpin a pass on allegations of "hindering" U.S. attorney's investigation
Research ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN
Steve Doocy allowed Gerald Walpin to claim that he "was fired" as an inspector general for, in Doocy's words, "putting pressure on" a supporter of President Obama, without asking Walpin to respond to allegations issued by an acting U.S. attorney that conduct by Walpin and his staff was "hindering our investigation."
On the July 21 broadcast of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy allowed Gerald Walpin, the recently dismissed inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), to claim that he "was fired" after, in Doocy's words, "putting pressure on" Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the organization he formerly headed, St. HOPE Academy, for alleged misuse of AmeriCorps grants. At no point was Walpin asked to respond to allegations made in a letter to Kenneth W. Kaiser, chair of the Integrity Committee of the Counsel of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, from Lawrence Brown, who joined the office of the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California in 2003 and became acting U.S. attorney earlier this year. Brown alleged that Walpin and his staff failed to include or disclose relevant information regarding the case to Brown's office; that Walpin repeatedly discussed the case in the press after having been advised that "under no circumstance was he to communicate with the media about a matter under investigation"; and that Walpin's "actions were hindering our investigation and handling of this matter."
In his April 29 letter to Kaiser, Brown detailed numerous complaints regarding Walpin's actions, including:
- Brown wrote: "In our experience, the role of an Inspector General is to conduct an unbiased investigation, and then forward that investigation to my Office for a determination as to whether the facts warrant a criminal prosecution, civil suit or declination. Similarly, I understand that after conducting such an unbiased investigation, the Inspector General is not intended to act as an advocate for suspension or debarment. However, in this case Mr. Walpin viewed his role very differently. He sought to act as the investigator, advocate, judge, jury and town crier."
- Brown stated that at the beginning of the investigation by the office of the U.S. attorney, "we met with Mr. Walpin and 2 investigators from his office" and "expressed our concerns that the conclusions in their report seemed overstated and did not accurately reflect all of the information gathered in their investigation. We also highlighted numerous questions and further investigation they needed to conduct, including the fact that they had not done an audit to establish how much AmeriCorps money was actually misspent."
- According to Brown, "On September 26, 2008, I participated in a conference call in which then U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott emphatically informed Mr. Walpin that under no circumstance was he to communicate with the media about a matter under investigation." Moreover, Brown stated that "we also informed Mr. Walpin that his actions were hindering our investigation and handling of this matter," and "as a result of Mr. Walpin's public pronouncements on the eve of the mayoral election," in which Johnson was a candidate, "McGregor Scott felt compelled to inform the media that our Office did not intend to file any criminal charges." Despite this warning, according to Brown, Walpin continued to discuss the investigation with the media.
- During the negotiations between the U.S. attorney's office and St. HOPE, according to Brown, "counsel provided evidence that they asserted helped establish that a significant portion of the AmeriCorps grant funds were appropriately expended." However, according to Brown, "When asked to review this material, members of Mr. Walpin's office revealed that CNCS investigators" had obtained similar evidence during the course of their investigation, "but did not include it in their report or disclose it to my Office [emphasis in the original]." Brown added: "When confronted by the non-disclosure, Mr. Walpin sought to defend why his office had not included all of the relevant material in their referral."
- Brown concluded by stating that "Walpin overstepped his authority by electing to provide my Office with selective information and withholding other potentially significant information at the expense of determining the truth. I believe that rather than ensuring protection of a respected federal agency, he tarnished its reputation."
Brown became acting U.S. attorney on January 5, 2009, after Scott resigned to enter the private sector. Scott -- a Bush appointee -- was the U.S. attorney in August 2008, when the U.S. attorney's office first began following up on Walpin's investigation into Johnson and St. HOPE Academy's alleged misuse of AmeriCorps funds. Special counsel to the president Norman L. Eisen cited Brown's complaint in a June 16 letter to members of Congress explaining the reasons for Walpin's termination.
From the July 21 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
DOOCY: He was investigating a close political pal of President Obama's, but, as he was doing that, Inspector General Gerald Walpin was removed, fired, canned from the post. Well, now, he is suing for wrongful termination. And he joins us live this morning. Good morning.
WALPIN: Good morning. How are you today?
DOOCY: I'm doing OK. You've been on the show before. We've talked about how you were investigating how Kevin Johnson, who used to be in the NBA and now is the mayor of Sacramento, his organization unwisely spent a whole bunch of dough.
And you were going after him and saying he should not ever get any more federal dough. Eventually you were removed, and you feel it's political payback because you were getting a little, you know -- you were being disfavorable to an ally of Barack Obama's.
WALPIN: Well, actually, I was fired because I was doing my job, and doing it well in supporting my staff, who are totally career people, and who are objective, and found out the facts, and came to me with those facts. And I said well, you found the facts; let's proceed on them.
DOOCY: And the consensus was that this guy had done what?
WALPIN: He had misused, totally, the grant of approximately $850,000 that was given to him for AmeriCorps people to do tutoring among those disadvantaged students in the area.
DOOCY: So, it's getting hot -- clearly, you were putting pressure on him, but your bosses were saying, "Jerry, just back off. Leave the guy alone."
WALPIN: Well, they, in fact, went around me and settled with him, and then I found out the facts -- as well as objecting to that -- found out the facts that there was an obstruction of justice, that emails had been erased that our office had subpoenaed, and financial records, which we wanted to see and never got, we were told, and learned, that they were in the possession of Mr. Johnson himself.
DOOCY: Doesn't look good.
WALPIN: Well -- and so, I and my office were doing our jobs and I get and get fired.
DOOCY: You get fired.