Paid administrative leave and bonuses given to three Internal Revenue Service officials caught up in a recent scandal have drawn fire from two key House Republican committee chairmen.
In a Wednesday letter to acting IRS chief Danny Werfel, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., demanded details on the circumstances and current status of Lois Lerner, Joseph Grant and Holly Paz. All were placed on administrative leave soon after a May report found the agency inappropriately sorted groups seeking tax-exempt status based on their political rhetoric.
“Was Joseph Grant asked to resign and, if so, who requested his resignation and on what grounds?” the letter asks. Were Paz and Lerner “asked to resign and, if so, who requested their resignation and on what specific grounds? Do these individuals have access to IRS systems (including electronic mail), documents, or physical property?”
The lawmakers seek details on the employees’ current administrative leave, whether they’re being paid, for how long, and whether the agency is seeking their removal. “Federal employment law,” the letter continues, “allows for administrative leave in rare circumstances when an agency determines that an employee’s continued presence in the workplace possibly (1) poses a threat to the employee or others; (2) may result in loss of or damage to government property; or (3) would otherwise jeopardize legitimate government interests. The leave may last pending the outcome of any investigation that may result in disciplinary or other adverse action.”
Camp and Issa demand the reasons for the employees’ placement on leave, the current status of their situations and the likely duration and costs.
“Recent press reports have stated you are in negotiations to end the lavish bonus system, which has paid tens of millions in bonuses to employees overall,” the chairmen wrote to Werfel. They asked for the amounts paid in bonuses to Lerner, Grant, Paz and former acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller, among others, since Jan. 1, 2010, along with the rationale and the name of the official who approved the bonuses. “In your notice to employees, you note that cancelation of bonuses will make it possible to eliminate two planned furlough days,” the letter notes. “How much money, if any, will the agency save if the IRS is successful in cancelling the $70 million in bonuses?”
Werfel was asked to respond by Aug. 7.