WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service has suspended two employees for accepting free items during a conference in 2010, the first example of agency personnel facing disciplinary action connected to recent investigations of wasteful spending on employee meetings.
A congressional source identified one of the suspended employees as Fred Schindler, a 15-year veteran of the tax agency who serves in a senior role relating to IRS implementation of President Obama’s healthcare law. The source was not able to immediately identify the second individual.
In a statement, acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel said the two employees were placed on administrative leave, and that the agency had “started the process to remove the employees pending further review.”
“When I came to IRS, part of my job was to hold people accountable,” Werfel said. “There was clearly inappropriate behavior involved in this situation, and immediate action is needed.”
According to the statement, the incident involves a party inside a private suite at the IRS conference in Anaheim in August of 2010. The individuals were provided food free of charge, in violation of government ethics laws.
The Anaheim conference was the focus of a 63-page report from a Treasury inspector general that was released Tuesday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It found a range of improper practices that led to an inflated $4.1-million price tag for the conference. But the incident involved in the suspensions did not appear to be specifically mentioned in the report.
The congressional source confirmed that the value of food and other items provided to the employees was approximately $1,100.
The oversight committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), is scheduled to hold a hearing on the IRS spending issue Thursday. Werfel is among those expected to testify.
Werfel told members of another House subcommittee Monday at a hearing on the agency’s targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status that he was committed to holding employees accountable when there is evidence of wrongdoing.
Schindler, as director of implementation oversight of the Affordable Care Act, works under Sarah Hall Ingram in the office overseeing the IRS’ responsibilities with the new healthcare law. Ingram previously oversaw the IRS office responsible for tax-exempt organizations, which has itself been under congressional scrutiny because of the political targeting scandal.
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