Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Motive in IG Walpin Firing? Larry Brown Curries Favor with Obama? Michelle Rhee Covers for Kevin Johnson?

Inspector General Gerald Walpin was fired by the White House for exposing the misuse of federal funds by AmeriCorps and former NBA star Kevin Johnson, currently the mayor of Sacramento, California. Today we learn one possible motive for instigating Walpin's removal.


Kevin Johnson and Michelle Rhee

The story has all the eye-popping details of a sensational National Enquirer story. Think John Edwards and his love child. The Walpin story has prestige: An honorable Inspector General doing his job spectacularly well. An acting U.S. Attorney, Larry Brown, looking for a presidential appointment, a famed NBA star, Kevin Johnson, just elected Mayor of Sacramento, California. Johnson's charity, St. HOPE Academy, AmeriCorps volunteers, $75 million in tainted federal funds, and the future chancellor of Washington, D.C. schools and St. HOPE Chairman of the Board, Michelle Rhee. Johnson and Rhee would soon be engaged. Then there are the three young school age girls who accused Kevin Johnson of inappropriate sexual behavior,  and the appearance, at least, that Michelle Rhee knew of the misused funds and the claims of the young girls.

Inspector General Gerald Walpin found that Kevin Johnson and AmeriCorps had spent $75 million in federal funds in inappropriate ways. Walpin's report to Congress also detailed the accusations of the three young women. Much has happened since the schizey hit the fan. Walpin has been cleared of all  the ethics charges that U.S. Attorney General Lawrence Brown tired to instigate,  including "overstepped authority." Walpin wants his job back and has sued.

Keep this in mind as the new part of this story evolves. Kevin Johnson and Barack Obama are tight. It is believed that Michelle O is tight with Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of Washington, D.C. schools. Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson are now engaged. Before the engagement, Rhee sat on the board of St. HOPE. A Washington, D.C. education blogger poses some problems and asks some questions:
...holding several, conflicting positions for one organization – Ms. Rhee’s titles at the St. Hope Charter Academy boggle the mind. 
Were all the positions paid positions? How did she perform the duties of board member and Chief Operating Officer at the same time? 
As president, Chief Operating Officer and Board Member at the same time? as President, COO, board member and a consultant for St. Hope on three projects, at the same time? 
Why, when  Rhee was apprised by St. Hope employee Jacqueline Wong-Hernandez about sexual misconduct allegations against Kevin Johnson by 3 Americorps teenage volunteers, did she not contact California State authorities she was obligated to do under California law?
As COO and President, not to mention those consulting positions, was Ms. Rhee aware of the misuse of Americorps funds and volunteers as outlined in the Investigative General’s report of August 2008?  
As one of the top three office holders of St. Hope it seems that either Ms. Rhee was aware and therefore particpated or that she was not aware and she was negligent in her duties or these positions were merely window dressing for her resume and padding for her bank account.
So Walpin's report was in. Kevin Johnson was soon to be sworn as Sacramento mayor and...there was a big problem. Johnson and his charity were under suspension from federal funds. This meant, as mayor, Johnson disqualified Sacramento from receiving a single penny from taxpayers.

So here is where it really gets interesting. Enter acting U.S. Attorney General Lawrence Brown. Brown wanted President Obama to appoint him as permanent Attorney General.  Brown stepped in, made a civil deal with Kevin Johnson to repay some of the funds - money that Walpin showed neither Johnson or his charity had available, that agreement lifted the ban on Sacramento's federal funding and Brown used his official letterhead to get Walpin investigated by the 'Integrity and Ethics" Counsel of Inspectors General.

Michelle Rhee didn't give up on Kevin - a few charges of inappropriate behavior with young woman? Not really important. She paid a visit to Gerald Walpin to plead Johnson's case, but Walpin's report remained unchanged.

From a Department of Justice document:
Acting United States Attorney Lawrence G. Brown announced today that St. HOPE Academy has agreed to pay $423,836.50 to settle allegations that St. HOPE did not appropriately spend AmeriCorps grant awards and education awards...The amount of the civil settlement represents one-half of the $847,673 in AmeriCorps grant funds received by St. HOPE Academy. 
The agreement reached strikes a proper balance between accountability and finality. St. HOPE Academy must pay a significant amount for its improper handling of AmeriCorps funds. [Don't you love this one?]
St. HOPE will make an initial payment of $73,836.50 by electronic transfer within five business days from today;
Kevin Johnson will pay $72,836.50 of the initial payment by St. HOPE, with possible repayment to Johnson by St. HOPE when it is financially able to do so;
Dana Gonzalez will pay $1,000.00 of the initial payment by St. HOPE.
Johnson and Gonzalez shall each register to take an online course offered by Management Concepts titled “Cost Principles”;
For a quick read of the charges of sexual impropriety, read "G" here, or find more linked below.

Save a president's friend from public shame and you just might get a presidential appointment. 

The Washington Examiner published information today on Larry's Brown's ambitions for the presidential appointment to the U.S. Attorney's office:
In a January 5, 2009 letter to Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Brown's home-state senator and a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Brown wrote, "I write to express my interest in appointment as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California" -- a presidentially-appointed position. In the letter, Brown took care to highlight his Democratic credentials.
"As this is a political appointment," Brown wrote: I will note that for the past two years, I have been registered as Decline to State. From 1988-2007, I was a registered Democrat and from 1982-1988, a Republican. As may be evident, I am not a rigid ideologue and discovered that I simply did not fit neatly within either party. I chose to ultimately become an independent because I felt that in my line of work, namely the administration of justice, neither party has a monopoly and its handiwork must be performed in non-partisan fashion. I count myself in the ranks of those who have grown weary of the overly-simplistic "red state/blue state" debates over complex issues and enthusiastically embrace President-elect Obama's call to abandon such labels and become the united states [sic] of America.

©2007-2012copyrightMaggie M. Thornton