- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

An Internal Revenue Service employee indicted for bribery and disclosing tax information is still on the IRS payroll, and a leading senator wants the employee's paychecks to stop.
Aucqunette D. Cunningham, who worked in the Taxpayer Advocate's Office of the IRS' Chicago branch, was indicted on March 27. The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois said Miss Cunningham accepted three bribes totaling $725 in 1999 and 2000 in exchange for illegally disclosing tax-return information.
The IRS has put her on administrative leave, meaning she continues to receive her salary while awaiting trial.
In a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said the incident is just the latest example of employees who have been indicted on or even convicted of criminal charges and remained on the payroll.
"I imagine that most taxpayers writing their April 15th check will not be pleased to know that while Miss Cunningham awaits trial for disclosing taxpayer information, she is at home on administrative leave, collecting a government paycheck," wrote Mr. Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
The IRS had no comment on Mr. Grassley's letter or his requests, said spokeswoman Nancy Mathis. Miss Cunningham could not be reached for comment.
In his letter, Mr. Grassley asked for an update on certain employees whom his committee staff identified as having had more than 30 consecutive days of administrative leave for disciplinary reasons, including an employee who was on paid leave for 425 workdays from 1998 to 2000 for fighting and assault, and a manager who was on leave for all of 2000 240 days for unprofessional conduct.
"I cannot understand why these cases take so long to resolve, and I do not understand why the American taxpayer has to foot the bill for this," Mr. Grassley said.
Mr. Grassley first raised the issue of IRS paid administrative leave in July, citing the case of Kenneth Dossey, an IRS employee who was convicted Feb. 28, 2001, of mail fraud and intercepting communications by listening to phone conversations.
He was sentenced May 24 to six months of home detention and two years of probation. As of July, he still was receiving an $80,000 annual salary. Mr. Grassley said it was only after he wrote to the IRS that Dossey's paychecks stopped.
In a Nov. 27 letter to Mr. Grassley, Mr. Rossotti at the IRS said rules governing paid administrative leave "are less than clear," but he said "better practices and standards that are consistently applied appear to be in order."
From 1998 through April 2001, 22 employees were paid for more than six months after being indicted or convicted of felonies.
Another 19 employees received payment for up to a month after indictment or conviction, and 12 employees received paychecks for between one month and six months. The figures were compiled by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, has secured indictments against other IRS employees for accepting bribes, including one last year and another last week. But those employees were no longer with the IRS, so paid administrative leave was not an option.

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