What’s going on at the IRS? Don’t expect answers from some of the people who work there. A manager suspected of steering hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to a friend became the second major figure to take the Fifth at a House Oversight Committee hearing into a widening range of malfeasance at the IRS:
A second IRS employee summoned to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee invoked the Fifth Amendment on Wednesday and refused to answer questions — a flashback to Lois Lerner, who did the same during a hearing on the agency’s scandal last month.
Gregory Roseman, who worked as a deputy director of acquisitions at the IRS, exercised his constitutional rights when Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) started interrogating him about panel findings that he helped a friend procure potentially $500 million worth of IRS contracts.
“On the advice of the counsel, I respectfully decline to answer any questions and invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege to remain silent,” Roseman said when Issa asked to whom he reported at the IRS.
Issa continued: “Mr. Roseman, when did you first become aware of a company called Strong Castle Inc.?”
Roseman, who has been removed from his position pending the outcome of an inspector general investigation, repeated his first statement.
Unlike Lerner’s case, where Congress is investigating possible political corruption, this appears to be corruption of a more mundane sort. Susan Ferrecchio provided the background on this case yesterday for the Washington Examiner:
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the IRS handed a $266 million purchasing agreement to Strong Castle, an information technology company based in Leesburg, Va., based on the company owner’s “longstanding relationship,” with an IRS deputy director Gregory Roseman, who is in charge of the agency’s Enterprise Networks and Tier Systems Support.
The company was recently named “small business contractor of the year,” by the Treasury department. According to Issa, the company earned a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business designation based on the owner’s injuries sustained during military prep school and not during active duty or in combat for the U.S. armed forces.
Issa issued a report on the fraud investigation Tuesday and plans to hold a hearing on the matter Wednesday that will feature, among other witnesses, both Roseman and Strong Castle Inc. president and CEO Braulio Castillo.
Castillo had denied that he had any kind of personal relationship with IRS officials, but it didn’t take an investigation long to refute that:
More than 350 text messages between Roseman and Castillo tell a different story, the report found.
“The messages show a relationship far closer than an arms-length relationship between a contractor and government contracting customer,” the report states. “Text messages include grossly inappropriate homophobic slurs that underscore a problematically close relationship. Castillo said months of records for other text messages, at critical contract junctures, were accidentally deleted and unavailable.”
Among the text messages between the two men were “offensive jokes about the physical appearance of other IRS employees.”
Castillo also asked Roseman for help “structuring a deal” to set up a new company that would focus on selling technology to the IRS.
UPI reports on another unsavory part of the story:
The House Oversight report also asked why Castillo received a special designation as a “service-disabled veteran-owned small business” 27 years after being injured in military prep school.
“He was able to get this designation despite the fact that he never actively served as a member of the armed services, he played college football after the injury and 27 years went by before he sought the designation as a disabled veteran,” the report said.
“Castillo sought the disabled-veteran designation only months before he purchased the company,” the report added.
Speaking of Lois Lerner, the Oversight Committee will vote on Friday on whether her attempt to take the 5th was legal:
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will vote Friday on whether Lois Lerner, director of IRS’s Exempt Organizations division, waived her Fifth Amendment rights when she spoke at a May 22 hearing. …
In a news release today, Issa said the committee on Friday will consider whether she waived her rights. “If the committee finds that Lerner waived her rights, she could be brought back before the Committee to answer questions,” the release states.
When we have two officials at the IRS taking the 5th in two different scandals, it’s clear that the agency has spun out of control, regardless of whether the proper form was used.
Update: Jeff Dunetz was on the scandal last night, before the hearing took place.