At the height of the IRS Tea Party targeting scandal, high-level IRS employee Lois Lerner blamed low-level IRS employees in a Cincinnati office for flagging tax-exempt applications that contained words such as “tea party” or “patriot.” Lerner had said that “line people . . . didn’t have the appropriate level of sensitivity about how this might appear to others.”
But one of these underlings in Cincinnati showed plenty of sensitivity in a May 10th email to Lerner that was made public this week by investigators on the House Ways and Means Committee. Her name is Cindy Thomas, then-director of that office. She took offense to Lerner’s labeling of her and others as “low level employees,” noticing right away that the Cincinnati tax-exempt division was being blamed in order to protect high-level IRS management. Tax law and IRS news can be dull at times, but Thomas’ email reads like a juicy piece of gossip:
As you can imagine, employees and managers [in the Cincinnati tax-exempt division] are furious…How am I supposed to keep the low-level workers motivated when the public believes they are nothing more than low-level and now will have no respect for how they are working cases? The attitude/morale of employees is at the lowest it has ever been…the previous 1½ years inside the determinations unit has been miserable enough because of the division’s workload and lack of help with strategic planning from Washington…Now our leader is publicly referring to employees who are the ones producing all of this work with fewer resources than ever as low-level workers!
This is obviously more than a defensive response from a manager with a bruised ego. I respect the way she stood up for her employees. And because I know first-hand the condition the IRS is in (and the condition it has been in for several months now), I don’t doubt anything she said. This email, though emotionally-charged as it is, goes to the heart of the scandal in a way that is more raw and sincere than anything we have seen to date.