Lerner to Retire

by Eliana Johnson

A congressional source has confirmed to National Review Online that embattled Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner, who has been on paid administrative leave since May, is retiring. The Associated Press is reporting that Lerner’s retirement is effective Monday. According to the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Sander Levin (D, Mich.), Lerner’s resignation comes as the Accountability Review Board investigating the scandal was set to recommend her termination on the basis of mismanagement and “neglect of duties.”

“Lois Lerner is being held responsible for her gross mismanagement of the IRS tax-exempt division, which led to improper handling of applications for tax-exempt status, whether conservative and progressive,” Levin said in a statement on Monday. Nonetheless, the Michigan congressman emphasized that investigators had found no evidence of “willful misconduct” or political bias.

Lerner, the former head of the agency’s Exempt Organiziations division, broke the news of the IRS’s targeting of tea-party groups by planting a question in the audience of a conference of the American Bar Association in mid-May. Days later, the Treasury Department inspector general released an audit concluding that the IRS had improperly discriminated against groups applying for tax-exemption using terms that included “tea party,” “9/12,” and others it deemed “inappropriate.”

According to reports, the agency’s acting adminstrator, Danny Werfel, asked for Lerner’s resignation when he took the helm in the wake of the targeting scandal, but she refused to tender it. Several top IRS officials have retired or been been placed on paid leave since news of the scandal broke, including the agency’s acting commissioner, Steven Miller; the commissioner of the IRS’s Tax Exempt and Government Entities division, Joseph Grant; and the director of the office of Rulings and Agreements, Holly Paz. 

Lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee had, in recent months, demanded to know whether Lerner was still on the IRS payroll  – the announcement of her retirement will likely clear up that question. It remains to be seen, however, whether congressional investigators will strike a deal in order to obtain her testimony. Lerner, who invoked her Fifth Amendment rights when she appeared before the House Oversight Committee, has previously announced that she will demand immunity in exchange for her testimony.

Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa made clear that Lerner’s retirement would not alter the course of his investigation. “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,” he said in a statement. “Her departure does not answer these questions or diminish the Committee’s interest in hearing her testimony.”