Lois Lerner went on paid leave from the Internal Revenue Service in May, ever since she invoked her Fifth Amendment rights in refusing to answer questions from Congress about her handling of Tea Party cases.
So why was she still sending letters to groups applying for tax exemptions as recently as August?
That's what members of a House Ways and Means subcommittee wanted to know Wednesday. Now, the IRS has an answer.
"In August, we discovered the auto-signature was still in use on a subset of notices automatically generated by our systems," said Terry Lemons, the IRS' director of communications. He said the signature was updated about Aug. 21.
That explanation is unlikely to satisfy Republican members of Congress, who are demanding to know why Lerner is still being paid. Lerner's base salary was $177,000 in 2011, according to records obtained by USA TODAY under the Freedom of Information Act.
Lerner's name came up 47 times at Wednesday's hearing, mostly as Congress members asked whether the agency had asked her to resign and why her name was still appearing on IRS documents. "Now, this letter I have here is dated August the 7th, 2013. That's why I asked, when was she put on administrative leave? When did she plead the Fifth? And if that's the case, why is she still sending out information? Respond. Respond!" demanded Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa. "Who has been held accountable for anything that's happened so far in the IRS?"
Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel said he couldn't publicly discuss Lerner's employment without violating privacy laws. Shortly after being tapped by President Obama to temporarily run the IRS, Werfel appointed career IRS official Ken Corbin to replace Lerner as the acting head of the Exempt Organizations office as part of an IRS shake-up.
Lerner's attorney, William TaylorIII, did not return a call seeking comment.
Andrew P. Scott, USA TODAY