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Nearly 150 prominent attorneys, of all political stripes have banded together to support one of their own who went to Washington, D.C., to serve as a government watchdog, only to be unceremoniously dismissed by the Obama Administration earlier this month. Read the letter in support of Mr. Walpin. Appointed by former President George W. Bush in January 2007, Gerald Walpin, the former inspector general for the board of the Corporation for National & Community Service, said that in mid-June, Norman L. Eisen, special counsel to President Barack Obama, called him, curtly thanked him for his service and gave him less than an hour to “move on.” The call came after Mr. Walpin issued two “substantial reports” raising questions about the misuse of AmeriCorps funds, Mr. Walpin said. One accused Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA basketball star who founded the nonprofit St. HOPE, of misusing an $850,000 AmeriCorps grant, and the other involved a probe into a teacher training program at the City University of New York. Mr. Walpin said the reports were unpopular with the corporation’s board for political reasons. Mr. Walpin claims that in May he “lectured” the board to take responsibility for overseeing the corporation. In a June 16 letter to lawmakers, Mr. Eisen claimed Mr. Walpin’s dismissal was “precipitated” by his apparent confusion at the meeting where he was “disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior that led the Board to question his capacity to serve.” Mr. Walpin’s dismissal has lit up the blogosphere in recent weeks, prompting accusations of political partisanship by the Obama administration. When his colleagues got wind of the dismissal and Mr. Eisen’s letter, they jumped in to defend Mr. Walpin, a former president of the Federal Bar Council and partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman. William F. Kuntz II of Baker Hostetler, said he and his colleagues were “outraged” when they learned about the dismissal and attacks against Mr. Walpin. “The bottom line is that [Mr. Walpin] clearly has all his marbles. He’s articulate, listens…he doesn’t wander off,” said Mr. Kuntz, vice-president of the Federal Bar Council. Mr. Walpin is the “ultimate straight shooter. This is not to say he is always right, but he’s very fair and very impartial,” Mr. Kuntz said. Mr. Kuntz was among six attorneys who spearheaded the effort to defend Mr. Walpin. They sent an e-mail asking federal practitioners who had “recent and substantial interactions” with Mr. Walpin to support their colleague. Nearly 150 attorneys, including former U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and Bernard W. Nussbaum of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz signed on. “We have known Gerald Walpin as a leading member of the New York Bar for many years. Many of us have seen him and heard him speak, including at this month’s meeting of the Second Circuit Judicial Conference and last week’s meeting of the Board of the Federal Council,” the group wrote in a June 23 letter to top lawmakers, including Joseph Lieberman, I, Conn, and Charles Grassley R-Iowa, and Gregory B. Craig, counsel to Mr. Obama. “We have never seen Mr. Walpin to be ‘confused, disoriented [or] unable to answer questions.’ While none of us was present at the meeting referred to in Mr. Eisen’s letter, we can report only that such an allegation is totally inconsistent with our personal knowledge of Mr. Walpin” who has always “exhibited a quick mind,” a “command of the facts” and “eloquence,” the letter states. However, while all of the attorneys are unanimous in affirming Mr. Walpin’s “integrity and competence,” the letter stops short of calling for hearings or formal investigations of the dismissal. Code Words “Confused” and “disoriented” are “code words” for senility, Mr. Walpin, 77, said in an interview, accusing the board of the corporation of mudslinging and “scraping the bottom of the barrel.” “Do I sound confused?” he asked. While he might have felt ill during the May 20 meeting, Mr. Walpin insists the real reason behind his dismissal were the two reports. The board did not “like my lecture,” he said, adding that they asked him to leave the room and then cut the meeting short. The timing of the phone call from Mr. Eisen in June, while Mr. Walpin was on his way to Lake George to attend the Judicial Conference, was “pure coincidence,” Mr. Eisen told Mr. Walpin, and the counsel gave Mr. Walpin less than an hour to decide if he would resign, Mr. Walpin said. Mr. Walpin refused, and later learned the government had terminated his e-mail account and locked him out of his office. He said he has never been provided with 30-days written notice of his termination, a violation of the 2008 Inspector General Reform Act. Moreover, he insists claims by Mr. Eisen that he was absent from the corporation’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. and “had become unduly disruptive to agency operations,” are further attempts at mudslinging. As for the New York attorneys’ response, “Our focus was to stand up and express our views” said Mark. C. Zauderer, a partner at Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer and a former president of the Federal Bar Council who signed the June 23 letter. Mr. Walpin is “quite outspoken” but also civil and shows respect for the opinions of others, even when he sharply disagrees with their views, Mr. Zauderer said. Ira Lee Sorkin of Dickstein Shapiro, who has known Mr. Walpin for more than 30 years called Mr. Walpin a “superb lawyer” and individual of “great integrity.” Board Stands by Decision In letters, the corporation has said it disagrees with Mr. Walpin’s conclusions that AmeriCorps grants to CUNY were inappropriate or the allegations that the corporation mishandled a settlement reached with respect to the St. HOPE matter. A spokeswoman for the corporation on community service said, “The bipartisan board, all of whom were appointed by President Bush, strongly support President Obama’s actions. There were many reasons why the Board unanimously approved the President’s decision to terminate Mr. Walpin.” The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. Johnson did not return a call for comment. A CUNY spokesman said the accusations that the university misused AmeriCorps founds were totally unfounded. Investigators for Senator Grassley, who has publicly questioned the administration’s dismissal of Mr. Walpin, are reviewing materials relating to the dismissal, according to a spokeswoman for the senator. The other attorneys who organized the letter in support of Mr. Walpin were Mr. Nussbaum, Robert J. Giuffra of Sullivan & Cromwell, Robert J. Anello of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer, Thomas J. Kavaler of Cahill Gordon & Reindel and George B. Yankwitt of Bryan Cave. @

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