For those who haven't seen it yet, here's the letter from White House ethics counsel Norm Eisen to Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) explaining the administration's decision to remove Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) Inspector General Gerald Walpin:
On the one hand, this letter might not settle the debate over whether or not Walpin was justifiably removed from office. Eisen does provide more details to explain the administration's decision, citing a recent incident in which Walpin was "confused" and "disoriented" at a Corporation Board meeting on May 20. He also points out that Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Lawrence Brown found that Walpin failed to disclose exculpatory evidence as part of his investigation, and that Walpin insisted on working in New York despite the objections of the Corporation Board. But Walpin quickly fired back in response to these allegations, telling Politico that he probably "had a bug and was tired" at the May 20 Board meeting, and that he got approval from the Corporation's acting CEO and general counsel before deciding to telecommute from New York.
On the other hand, the fact that Eisen sent this letter at all is evidence that Congress did a good job of pressing the administration to explain its decision. Unlike other presidential appointees, IGs work for two masters, and Congress had a right to know why Walpin was removed.
Once again, we hope the Walpin case convinces Congress to revisit the IG Reform Act and add the original House language stating that the President can only remove an IG for specified causes, so that we don't have an episode like this again.
-- Danielle Brian and Michael Smallberg