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IRS’s Lerner Retires Amid Scrutiny of Tea Party Cases

Former IRS Official Lois Lerner
Lois Lerner, then the director of the Internal Revenue Service's exempt organizations office, during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on May 22, 2013. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

Sept. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service official investigated by Congress over the agency’s scrutiny of Tea Party groups, has retired effective today, the agency said in a statement.

Lerner, the tax agency’s former director of exempt organizations, was placed on paid administrative in May. Last week, acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel told a congressional panel that Lerner was “technically still employed.”

The agency declined further comment, citing privacy concerns.

The IRS informed some in Congress about the retirement, said a Republican congressional aide, who requested anonymity to discuss the private conversation.

An internal IRS board was going to propose starting the process to fire her, citing neglect of duties and mismanagement, according to a Democratic congressional aide briefed on the decision who requested anonymity.

That board didn’t conclude that Lerner acted with political bias or willful misconduct, the aide said. Lerner’s pension wouldn’t have been different had she been fired, the aide said.

William Taylor, Lerner’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

‘Unanswered Questions’

“Just because Lois Lerner is retiring from the IRS does not mean the investigation is over,” Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. “Far from it. In fact, there are many serious unanswered questions that must be addressed so we can get to the truth.”

At a May 22 congressional hearing, Lerner defended her work with the government.

“I am very proud of the work that I have done,” she said at a the hearing before she refused to answer questions, citing her constitutional protection against self-incrimination. “I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws.”

Lerner oversaw the IRS office that reviewed applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status. Starting in 2010, that office selected some groups for further scrutiny based solely on whether they had “Tea Party” as part of their names.

Lerner disclosed and apologized for the actions May 10, in response to a planted question at a tax conference.

That revelation has led to congressional investigations and a criminal probe by the Justice Department.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted in June to determine that Lerner waived her right against self-incrimination by making that statement. The panel hasn’t called her back to testify.

To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Rubin in Washington at rrubin12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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