Lois Lerner, IRS official at center of scandal, put on administrative leave

Posted May 23, 2013, at 6:28 p.m.
Last modified May 23, 2013, at 7:27 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Lois Lerner, an Internal Revenue Service official at the center of the scandal over the agency’s extra scrutiny of conservative groups, was put on administrative leave on Thursday after she refused to resign, a U.S. senator said.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said new acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel was the one who asked for Lerner’s resignation.

An IRS spokesman declined to comment on Lerner’s status, citing privacy concerns. However, an internal memo supplied by the agency named Lerner’s replacement.

An aide to Grassley said Werfel spoke with Grassley’s office on Thursday afternoon and conveyed the information.

A bipartisan chorus in Congress had been calling for her to go. Democratic Sen. Carl Levin and Republican Sen. John McCain had written to Werfel earlier on Thursday calling for her to be removed.

The move comes one day after Lerner refused to answer questions during a House panel hearing into why workers in a Cincinnati field office of the IRS in early 2010 began targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

Lerner oversaw the tax-exempt division.

Lerner’s lawyer, William Taylor, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“From all accounts so far, the IRS acting commissioner was on solid ground to ask for her resignation,” Grassley said in a statement.

He also said that Lerner “shouldn’t be in limbo indefinitely on the taxpayers’ dime.”

On Wednesday, Lerner denied she had done anything wrong, but asserted her constitutional right against self-incrimination.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa has accused Lerner of providing “false or misleading information” to his committee on four occasions last year.

Lerner was the official who first publicly acknowledged the targeting by responding to a planted question about the topic at an American Bar Association conference on May 10.

The admission came before a Treasury Department inspector general report found that workers in the Cincinnati office used “inappropriate criteria” such as the terms “tea party” and “patriots” to target the applications of conservative groups for intense scrutiny.

Werfel, a White House budget official who officially started at the IRS on Wednesday, announced Lerner’s replacement in an employee memo on Thursday.

Ken Corbin, a deputy director in charge of the wage and investment division, will take over as acting director of the tax-exempt organizations unit, Werfel said, without acknowledging Lerner.

Werfel himself took over for Acting Commissioner Steve Miller, who was fired by President Barack Obama over the controversy last week.

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