Case closed

Gerald Walpin: whistle-blower or rogue inspector?

Gerald Walpin: whistle-blower or rogue inspector?

Read Inspector General Gerald Walpin’s report on the St. Hope settlement at

It hardly got a mention in the daily press, but federal Inspector General Gerald Walpin last week released a remarkable report blasting the U.S. attorney for its settlement with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and his St. Hope Academy over the alleged misuse of federal funds.

Walpin, the inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service, barred Johnson from receiving new federal funds, on the grounds that Johnson had volunteers in his AmeriCorps-funded program drive him around and wash his car. Johnson also allegedly used AmeriCorps money to supplement St. Hope salaries and used AmeriCorps volunteers to help with political activities connected to local school board elections.

The inspector then turned the case over to U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott for further investigation and possible criminal charges.

But in early April, amid panicky speculation that Johnson’s legal limbo could jeopardize federal aid to the city, the U.S. attorney announced a settlement. St. Hope would return the government money and Johnson would be taken off the no-funds list.

But during the whole investigation, Walpin said Johnson and St. Hope officials refused to cooperate. Johnson refused to be interviewed regarding allegations that Johnson had inappropriately touched a student, and that his attorney had interfered in the reporting of that allegation. Then Walpin said St. Hope officials refused to provide documents showing how they administered the federal AmeriCorps funds. All along Johnson told the press he was fully cooperating with the feds.

Walpin complained the U.S. attorney simply caved to political expediency, rather than hold Johnson accountable. From the report: “Suddenly, with the enactment of stimulus legislation, a well-orchestrated push to force a settlement, which would include the lifting of the suspension—without Johnson’s need to provide facts to contradict the grounds for suspension—commenced.”

Taking Johnson off the no-funds list, Walpin wrote, is “akin to deciding that, while one should not put a fox in a small chicken coop, it is fine to do so in a large chicken coop.”

And in the end Walpin said St. Hope probably won’t pay back the money anyway, because his investigation “casts overwhelming doubt on St. Hope’s solvency.”

“This is a Bush appointee who wants to put an exclamation point on his career,” said Steve Maviglio, political consultant and Johnson spokesperson.

Since Walpin launched his investigation last spring, Maviglio has painted Walpin as a “rogue inspector” and a right-wing nut job.

After all, it was Walpin who at a Mitt Romney fundraiser back in 2005 joked that the Democratic Party were like “modern-day KKK,” as in the “Kennedy Kerry Klan.” He’s also a member of the ultraconservative Federalist Society.

“He’s always been unreasonable. He’s always had his own agenda,” Maviglio added.

Perhaps Maviglio is right, and this is yet another case of great billowing clouds of smoke surrounding Johnson, but no fire. Sure, St. Hope’s board of directors is in turmoil. Sure, last year, Johnson’s Sacramento Charter High School fell behind on its rent by about $1 million. Sure, St. Hope has been in the red most of its history.

But the important thing to remember is that Walpin is a Republican who is out to get Johnson.

“It’s case closed as far as we’re concerned,” Maviglio explained.