WASHINGTON — The IRS has put a top official in charge of implementing Obamacare on administrative leave after it was discovered he had accepted $1,162 in free food and other items during a 2010 conference.
In a statement, the IRS confirmed that two employees have been placed on administrative leave — which is paid — and have begun the process of removing them.
"[Acting IRS Director] Danny Werfel learned of the situation last night and immediately asked his leadership team to take action. He has also been in contact with key congressional committees about the situation," the service said in the statement.
"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."
The IRS informed congressional staff investigating the agency that Fred Schindler had been put on leave for accepting the gifts. A second unnamed staffer in the division was also put on leave for accepting the gifts, the aides said.
According to congressional sources, the food was provided by an event planner organizing the conference during an "after hours" party. One source says the incident was referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution but it was not acted upon.
An IRS spokesman declined to comment on whether the issue was sent to DOJ.
Schindler is the deputy for Sarah Hall Ingram, who is heading up implementation of the Affordable Care Act for the IRS. Ingram has come under scrutiny recently because she oversaw the division of the IRS which targeted conservative organizations seeking nonprofit status.
According to congressional sources, the suspensions appear to be the first examples of employees being punished as part of a separate scandal over the service's spending on conferences. One congressional source said it also appears the free meals and gifts were accepted at the same 2010 conference during which participants filmed a Star Trek spoof video.
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa is scheduled to hold a hearing on conference spending by the IRS Thursday.
John Stanton is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New Orleans. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.
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