The Internal Revenue Service official who became the face of the recent scandal involving undue scrutiny given to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status has been removed from her position, but is likely still working for the organization, according to a new report.
Lois Lerner, who headed the tax exempt organization program, had been previously reported to be on administrative leave – but a report drafted by acting IRS Director Daniel Werfel released Monday indicates she no longer holds the job.
"The Privacy Act of 1974 limits our ability to identify individual names and individual disciplinary actions in this report," he wrote in the report posted by The Washington Post. "However, we can state that, by way of various personnel actions as a result of the activities covered in [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration] report, a total of five executives are no longer in the positions they held at the time that the TIGTA report was published."
The report includes a chart indicating the IRA officials who "no longer hold" their positions, including Lerner's job. Previous news reports had identified some officials who had been asked to leave or were retiring, including Steven Miller, who had been the acting commissioner; Joseph Grant, commissioner of the agency's tax exempt and government entities division, who retired June 3; and Holly Paz, the former director of the Office of Rulings and Agreements.
An IRS spokesman declined to confirm that Lerner had been fired, but repeated the report's language that she "no longer holds" her previous position.
Werfel briefed President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on the report's contents before its public release.
"As the president has made clear, the misconduct identified in last month's Inspector General report is unacceptable," said Jay Carney, the White House spokesman in a release. "He will not tolerate inappropriate behavior in any agency and the president believes that IRS personnel must operate with absolute integrity, fairness and neutrality."
Among other things, the report cites numerous examples of mismanagement that led to the inappropriate targeting of tea party political groups that had sought tax-exempt status. It also makes recommendations to prevent future abuses, including appointing new leadership and suspending the use of keywords to "be on the lookout" for hyper-scrutiny.
"Leaders, including some in the commissioner's office, failed in multiple capacities to meet their managerial responsibilities at various points during the course of these events," Werfel said. "Most notably, there was insufficient action by these leaders to identify, prevent, address and disclose the problematic situation that materialized with the review of applications for tax-exempt status."
And while Werfel acknowledges the scandal has damaged the public's trust in the institution, he said there was no evidence of "intentional wrongdoing" and maintained that the "vast majority" of IRS employees do their jobs appropriately.
"At this time, while fact gathering is still underway, we have not found evidence of intentional wrongdoing by IRS personnel, or involvement in these matters by anyone outside of the IRS," he said. "The vast majority of IRS management and staff live up to this high standard. However, those who neglect this duty and cannot demonstrate the ability to hold the public's trust must be held accountable for their actions."
Werfel said the tax collection agency would continue to work with the Department of Justice, Congress and the inspector general to further investigate what led to the controversial actions.