WASHINGTON — The national service agency's inspector general, fired by President Barack Obama, disputed on Wednesday claims from the White House that he was "confused" and "disoriented" at an agency meeting.
In a letter sent to lawmakers Tuesday night, Obama's special counsel Norman Eisen described Gerald Walpin as "confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions" during a May 20 meeting of the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Eisen said the behavior led board members to question Walpin's capacity to serve as the internal watchdog of the government-run corporation, which oversees programs like AmeriCorps.
"To say that I'm disoriented is wild," Walpin said in an interview with The Associated Press. "The whole thing is idiotic."
Obama told Congress last week that he had lost confidence in Walpin and was removing him from his post at the national service corporation. Obama did not explain then what led him to lose confidence in Walpin, prompting lawmakers to request more details about the firing.
On Tuesday night, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., became the first Democrat to question the administration's firing of Walpin, contending the White House failed to follow a law requiring an explanation of the reason for the dismissal.
Several Republicans had previously complained.
Eisen said in his letter to McCaskill, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that Walpin was removed after a review was requested by the corporation's bipartisan board. Among other reasons, Eisen cited Walpin's absence from the corporation's headquarters in Washington.
"Mr. Walpin had become unduly disruptive to agency operations, impairing his effectiveness" and lost the confidence of the board, Eisen wrote.
McCaskill said she now accepts Obama's explanation for the firing.
Walpin said in the AP interview that when the White House asked for his resignation last week, the conduct at the meeting was not mentioned. "There was nothing like this that came up," he said.
In an AP interview last week, Walpin said, "I know that I and my office acted with the highest integrity as an independent inspector general should act."