IRS Accepts Retirement of Official at Center of Scandal

Lois Lerner testified before Congress in May. Lois Lerner testified before Congress in May. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Lois Lerner, the head of the Internal Revenue Service division under fire since May for alleged political targeting of conservative groups, submitted her resignation Monday morning after months of administrative leave, the agency acknowledged.

“We can confirm today that Lois Lerner has retired,” the IRS said in a statement. “Under federal privacy rules, the IRS cannot comment further on individual employee matters.”

Acting Internal Revenue Commissioner Danny Werfel has been implementing reforms of the troubled agency, including the empaneling of an Accountability Review Board, while also following established rules on personnel actions, the agency said.

Earlier this month, Werfel was pressed by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee to explain why Lerner continued to collect a paycheck after she invoked her Fifth Amendment rights and declined to testify on her two-year role supervising the processing of applications for tax-exempt status from nonprofit groups and judging the extent to which the groups are political.

Republicans also criticized her use of private email for some official communication and her past work for the Federal Election Commission.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a statement saying, “Lerner’s exit from the IRS does not alter the Oversight Committee’s interest in understanding why applicants for tax exempt status were targeted and inappropriately treated because of their political beliefs. We still don’t know why Lois Lerner, as a senior IRS official, had such a personal interest in directing scrutiny and why she denied improper conduct to Congress. Her departure does not answer these questions or diminish the committee’s interest in hearing her testimony.”

Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin, D-Mich., said, “Lerner’s resignation was received this morning after the IRS’ internal Accountability Review Board completed its review and was set to propose Lerner’s removal from the IRS on the basis of ‘neglect of duties.’ ” Levin said this “mismanagement” is consistent with the findings of the May audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that prompted the controversy, adding that he himself had called for her removal.

“As has been the case in all aspects of the current IRS investigation, the IRS internal Review Board found no evidence of political bias in her neglect of duties,” Levin added. “The basic overreaching premise of the Republicans that the IRS had an ‘enemies list’ and was being influenced from the outside has been proven wrong again, as it has again and again.”

Carol A. Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, told Government Executive, “I have no way of judging Ms. Lerner’s performance. What I do know is that, once accused, defending oneself can be a very expensive undertaking in more ways than one; therefore, it is not surprising that she has resigned. What is unfortunate is that many will likely view her resignation as an admission of wrongdoing.”

Paul Streckfus, a onetime attorney in the IRS Exempt Organizations division now editing a tax journal, called Lerner “a dedicated public servant” who sometimes was “her own worst enemy.” Lerner “asked for everyone's help, but mostly did what she wanted,” Streckfus said.“She tended to ignore what she did not want to hear. She liked to say the EO Division had to be transparent, but she never really was.”

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