WASHINGTON — Moving quickly to stem a raging controversy, the new acting head of the Internal Revenue Service started cleaning house Thursday by replacing the supervisor who oversaw agents involved in targeting tea party groups.
A day after she refused to answer questions at a congressional hearing, Lois Lerner was placed on administrative leave, according to congressional sources.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said Lerner was asked to resign but refused, so she was placed on leave. An IRS spokeswoman said the agency could not comment on Lerner’s status because it was a private personnel matter.
Danny Werfel, the agency’s new acting commissioner, told IRS employees in an email that he had selected a new acting head of the division, staying within the IRS to do so.
Ken Corbin, a 27-year IRS veteran, will be the new acting director of the agency’s exempt organizations division. Corbin currently is a deputy director in the wage and investment division, where he oversees 17,000 workers responsible for processing 172 million individual and business tax returns, Werfel said.
Werfel’s email Thursday made no mention of Lerner, but congressional aides who were briefed on the matter confirmed that Lerner was placed on paid administrative leave. They spoke on condition of anonymity because a personnel matter was involved.
“From all accounts so far, the IRS acting commissioner was on solid ground to ask for her resignation,” Grassley said in a statement. “The IRS owes it to taxpayers to resolve her situation quickly. The agency needs to move on to fix the conditions that led to the targeting debacle. She shouldn’t be in limbo indefinitely on the taxpayers’ dime.”
Lerner’s lawyer, William Taylor III, did not respond to requests for comment.
Lerner is the IRS official who first publicly disclosed that IRS agents had been targeting tea party and other conservative groups for additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.