A senior Internal Revenue Service official who until recently served as an adviser to embattled official Lois Lerner is leaving the agency, according to an IRS agent with knowledge of the situation. Sharon Light has “accepted a position with the American Cancer Society, leaving a critical vacancy in the Senior Technical Adviser team for the Director of Exempt Organizations,” Lerner’s replacement, Kenneth Corbin, wrote this morning in an internal e-mail to Exempt Organization employees.
Light will be replaced by Cindy Thomas, a 35-year IRS veteran who ran the Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati throughout the 2-year period that conservative groups were targeted. “Cindy brings a strong background in EO Determinations and the history of the organization,” Corbin told employees. “And, since she is located in Cincinnati, she will provide a voice for the process and challenges faced in determinations work.” Thomas’s promotion will not be without controversy, given that, in November of last year, she signed off on the illegal release of nine pending, confidential applications for tax exemption filed by conservative groups to the left-leaning outlet ProPublica. One of those organizations, the Colorado-based Citizens Awareness Project, yesterday filed a federal lawsuit against the IRS over the release of its application.
The targeting of conservative groups involved officials senior to Thomas, however. While heading the Exempt Orgnizations office in Cincinnati, she repeatedly sought updates – to no avail – on the applications from officials in Washington, D.C. Now, accusing the IRS of obstructing his investigation, Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa is now claiming that IRS officials have “affirmatively prevented” Thomas, who recently provieded closed-door testimony to congressional investigators, from turning over key documents.
Light is the sixth senior IRS official to depart the agency in the wake of Lerner’s disclosure on May 10 that the IRS had inappropriately singled out the applications of tea-party groups for special scrutiny. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew demanded the resignation of acting commissioner Steven Miller shortly thereafter; Lerner and the former head of the IRS’s Rulings and Agreements Office remain on paid administrative leave; Joseph Grant, the former commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entitites division, and Carter Hull, a tax law specialist who was charged with handling tea-party applications and a 48-year agency veteran, have retired since news of the scandal broke.