Reality Check Exclusive: Cincinnati agent giving orders in IRS scandal?
CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The claim that the ongoing IRS scandal is limited to low level employees is falling apart.
The six Cincinnati workers we have identified, who sent scrutinizing letters to conservative groups with words including "patriot, liberty, tea party or 9-12" in their names are Mitchel Steele, Carly Young, Joseph Herr, Stephen Seok, Liz Hofacre and a woman identified only as Ms. Richards.
But was all of this done at the hands of a small group of Cincinnati employees working together? During Friday's congressional hearing, that appeared to be the theme. Now, that explanation just became less likely.
Thanks to two FOX19 sources connected to the IRS, we now understand the chain of command for these workers.
Mitchel Steele, Carly Young, Joseph Herr and Liz Hofacre are IRS agents. Stephen Seok is a supervisor IRS agent.
But according to the IRS employee directory that FOX19 has obtained exclusively, each of these agents has a different manager and then above them a different territory manager.
That is important because while it may sound reasonable to the average person that these workers began targeting groups on their own, the IRS structure is designed to prevent that.
Here is how that works.
When an application for tax exempt status comes into the IRS, agents have 270 days to work through that application. If the application is not processed within those 270 days it automatically triggers flags in the system. When that happens, individual agents are required to input a status update on that individual case once a month, every month until the case is resolved.
Keep in mind, at least 300 groups were targeted out of Cincinnati alone. Those applications spent anywhere from 18 months to nearly 3 years in the system and some still don't have their non-profit status. 300 groups multiplied by at least 18 months for each group, means thousands of red flags would have been generated in the system.
So who in the chain of command would have received all these flags? The answer, according to the IRS directory, one woman in Cincinnati, Cindy Thomas, the Program Manager of the Tax Exempt Division. Because all six of our IRS workers have different individual and territory managers, Cindy Thomas is one manager they all have common.
It turns out Cindy Thomas' name is one we have heard before. The independent journalism group ProPublica says in November of 2012 they had requested information on conservatives groups that had received non-profit status. Along with that information, the IRS released private information on nine conservative groups that had not yet been approved and personal information had not been redacted. The person who signed off on that release, Cindy Thomas.
What this means for you... consider this chain of command since the story broke.
Former Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller… retires
Joseph Grant, Commissioner of Tax Exempt and Government Entities... retires.
Lois Lerner, Head of Exempt Organization…says she will invoke her 5th amendment right to not incriminate herself when called before Congress on Wednesday.
Holly Paz, Director of Exempt Organizations, subpoenaed to Washington to be interviewed by members of Congress.
All of this IRS leadership, in Washington D.C.
Then one level down is Cindy Thomas, the highest ranking employee in Cincinnati in this Tax Exempt and Government Entities Department that no one in Congress is talking to... yet.
And that is Reality Check.
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