Grassley Seeks Answers on IRS’ Use of Paid Leave
WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance,today sought answers from the Internal Revenue Service about the agency’s use of paidadministrative leave for its employees. Grassley’s letter to the agency follows.
April 4, 2002
The Honorable Charles O. Rossotti
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, Northwest
Washington, DC 20224
Dear Commissioner Rossotti;
Last year, I wrote to you about an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee, Mr. KennethDossey, who was indicted, convicted and sentenced for several felonies. During this entire time,Mr. Dossey remained on the federal payroll. It is my understanding that only after I wrote to youdid IRS finally terminate him, after he spent some three years in paid administrative leave status.
In your response to my letter of November 27, 2001, raising concerns about Mr. Dossey aswell as paid administrative leave in general, you agreed that “. . . better practices and standards thatare consistently applied appear to be in order.” In addition, you stated you were directing a senioradvisor to review and recommend policy changes. I appreciate your acknowledgment thatcontrolling administrative leave is an important matter.
Administrative leave may in some instances make sense; however, we must recognize thatin many cases it leads to significant waste of taxpayer money because it drains limited IRSresources. The amount of potential waste is highlighted in your November response, where youshow that at that point scores of IRS employees either were on or had been on extendedadministrative leave – in some cases several months or a year. Thus, after reading your Novembercomments about policy changes, I was troubled that the first news I heard on IRS administrativeleave was in a Department of Justice (DoJ) press release dated March 27, 2002. The releaseindicates that an IRS employee, Ms. Aucqunette Cunningham, is on paid administrative leave afterhaving been indicted for bribery and tax disclosure violations.
Ms. Cunningham allegedly provided tax return information in 1999 and 2000 in exchangefor bribes. As taxpayers complete their duty to file their tax return information this April 15th, it iscritical that they know their private information will remain just that – private. I imagine that mosttaxpayers writing their April 15th check will not be pleased to know that while Ms. Cunninghamawaits trial for disclosing taxpayer information, she is at home on administrative leave, collectinga government paycheck.
In addition to the administrative leave issue, I am disturbed about the §6103 violation (i.e.,unauthorized disclosure of tax information), particularly given my involvement in writing theRestructuring and Reform Act of 1998 and my belief that the privacy of personal tax informationis essential to the integrity of our tax system.
In response to Ms. Cunningham’s indictment and your November 27, 2001, letter, I haveseveral specific questions. Additionally, I have some general concerns about IRS’ use of extendedadministrative leave.
With respect to administrative leave in general, please answer the following questions:
1) You indicated in your November letter “better practices and standards that are consistentlyapplied appear to be in order” with respect to IRS’ use of administrative leave. You askedMichael Shaheen, your senior counselor, to review the Dossey case and other cases in orderto assess the need for a policy change. You stated that findings and recommendations wereexpected within a month. What did Mr. Shaheen conclude? What internal changes havebeen made regarding extended administrative leave?
2) Many agencies view indictment of an employee for a felony as a trigger point forconsidering whether administrative action (e.g., termination, suspension, demotion, etc.)should be taken. In some cases, such as an ongoing investigation, it may be imprudent totake administrative action. However, in many instances it seems that taking administrativeaction is justified given that the time period from indictment to verdict and subsequentsentencing can be measured in months if not years. Does IRS require an administrativereview when an indictment is made of an employee? If so, please explain in detail theprocedures and results of such review.
3) I understand that IRS started using a new time reporting system, Single Entry TimeReporting (SETR), at the beginning of Fiscal Year (FY) 2002. Its predecessor did notfacilitate tracking administrative leave. Does SETR allow IRS to track administrative leave?If not, how do you plan to measure and manage administrative leave? If so, does the systemdistinguish between conduct-based administrative leave (e.g., pending disciplinaryinvestigation or action) and other administrative leave (e.g., jury duty or leave bank usage)?In addition, if the new system allows IRS to track administrative leave, what guidance haveyou provided to first-line managers?
4) You provided an exhaustive list of IRS staff on more than 30 days of administrative leavesince January 1, 1998. I am particularly interested in the following employees:
i. Employee 99-30, a GS-12, (reason: fighting/assault) for 146 days in Calendar Year(CY) 1998, 218 days in CY 1999, and 61 days in CY 2000.
ii. Employee 00-12, a GS-14 manager, (reason: unprofessional conduct) for the entireCY 2000 (240 days).
iii. Employee 00-26, a GS-5, (reason: disclosure/security) for 190 days in CY 2000 and120 days in 2001
iv. Employee 01-19, a GS-13 manager, (reason: fighting/assault) for 93 days in CY2001.
v. Employee 01-23, a GS-13, (reason: sexual harassment) for 120 days in CY 2001The first three employees were on administrative leave for at least a full year; the last twofor at least four calendar months (and quite possibly more, given that CY 2001 had yet to close whenyou forwarded the information). I cannot understand why these cases take so long to resolve andI do not understand why the American taxpayer has to foot the bill for this. Please explain to mewhat happened in these five cases. Additionally, please provide me with a list of employees whohave been on administrative leave in FY 2002 for 30 or more days.
With respect to the Dossey matter, please answer the following questions:
1) This past November, you wrote that you would provide a separate answer to questionsrelated to Mr. Dossey’s federal tax payments. I have yet to receive the information or anyother communication from you on this issue. Please include this information with yourresponse to this letter.
2) I understand that all IRS full-time employees are required to request permission prior totaking concurrent part-time employment. Mr. Dossey evidently managed a conveniencestore while on administrative leave. Did he request permission for this? Did his managergrant it? If not, was he ever disciplined for this? If not, why not? Additionally, may IRS fireemployees for failure to comply with this rule?
3) On August 2, 2000, Ms. Diane Camilleri, Chief of Staff for IRS Office of the ChiefInformation Officer, wrote Mr. Dossey proposing to suspend him without pay. Why wasMr. Dossey never suspended without pay? Which senior manager made the decision to keepMr. Dossey in administrative leave status?
With respect to Ms. Cunningham, please answer the following questions:
1) What is her pay grade/step? How long has IRS been aware that she was under investigation?How many days has she been on administrative leave? How many more days do you expectshe will be on administrative leave? What steps is IRS taking to minimize the number ofdays she will be on administrative leave?
2) In your November letter, you site actions absent a criminal conviction that would justify IRSdisciplinary action, including removal. These include three elements: whether the availableinformation establishes misconduct; whether there is a nexus between the misconduct andthe employment; and, if those two items have been satisfied, what management action isappropriate.
Your letter further states that in a case of adverse action the IRS must give the employee:
1) advance written notice of the charges and the proposed action; 2) the opportunity torespond in writing or in person or both; and 3) a written decision. In addition, while 30-daynotice is usually required, that can be reduced to seven days if there is reason to believe theemployee committed a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. In thiscase, the Department of Justice release states that Ms. Cunningham’s crime is punishableby up to five years in prison. While recognizing that there may be reasons for not takingadministrative action (as I discussed earlier), what disciplinary action has the IRS proposed,if any, in regards to Ms. Cunningham? If no disciplinary actions have been proposed, whynot?
3) Although IRS need not wait for a conviction to take disciplinary action, shouldMs. Cunningham be convicted on any of the counts, what action will IRS take?
4) Is there any investigation under way to determine which employee actually accessed thetaxpayer accounts in question? Please explain to the extent possible.
I am dedicated to ensuring that American taxpayer dollars are expended reasonably andresponsibly. I trust your answers to the above questions will reassure me that IRS is committed tothe same goals.
I look forward to your response by April 30, 2002.
cc: Daniel Devlin, Assistant IG for Audit, TIGTA
Tom McGivern, Legislative Affairs Counsel, Department of Treasury
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