Friday, January 18, 2002

IRS ousts mom who shot man


Secretary's suspension shock to family income

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service has suspended the local mom who shot Larry Eugene Howell in the crotch because she suspected him of molesting her son.

        A local chapter of the National Treasury Employees Union described the move as a “financial death sentence” for the woman,whose job as an IRS secretary was the primary source of income and health insurance benefits for her five children and disabled husband.

        The woman, whom the Enquirer is not identifying to protect her child, is free on bond, awaiting a grand jury decision on whether to indict her on a felony assault charge.

        “Your arrest undermines public confidence in the integrity of all Internal Revenue Service employees and impairs the accomplishment of the Service's mission,” center director R. Wayne Hicks wrote in a letter obtained by the Enquirer. “I have concluded that an indefinite suspension will promote the efficiency of the Service.”

        The suspension of pay took effect Dec. 30, according to the letter, dated two days after Christmas.

        The letter continues: “In determining what penalty is adequate and appropriate in this case, I am also taking into account that the conduct at issue is serious and egregious and adversely impairs the ability of the Service to rely on your integrity and judgment in the performance of your position.”

        Mr. Hicks referred all questions to IRS spokeswoman Pat Brummer. Ms. Brummer said she was barred from commenting on any personnel matters.

        Eric Johns, communications director for the National Treasury Employees Union, Chapter 37, said the IRS is legally within its rights to suspend the woman, but wasn't required to take such drastic measures.

        He said a local policy has been to suspend employees charged with serious crimes, but that the policy hasn't been uniformly followed at other IRS centers across the nation. Mr. Johns declined to cite examples.

        Union attorneys in Chicago have reviewed the woman's case, Mr. Johns said, and have determined there is insufficient legal precedent to take it to arbitration.

        “IRS employees who know of the incident have been overwhelmingly supportive of her,” Mr. Johns said. “They feel like she acted the way most people would have acted. I wish we could help her more.”

        The woman, who has worked at the Cincinnati IRS Center in Covington for more than 10 years, declined to be interviewed for this story. Her last assignment at the IRS was as a secretary for a department manager.

        “Her well-being and her family's lifestyle are contingent on having this job with the IRS,” said her aunt, Aline Johnson of Covington. “She is already under lots of stress. ... Now she has to worry about where her family's next meal is going to come from.”

        Ms. Johnson said the woman's husband has heart problems, and that the family does not have money to pay utilities.

        The 40-year-old Erlanger man is charged with nine counts of sodomy. Investigators have said he had improper sexual contact with as many as 30 boys, including the woman's son.

       



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