IRS Faces Lawsuit to Release Text Messages

     (CN) — The IRS failure to preserve employee text and instant messages drew a federal complaint from a conservative-leaning watchdog, on the eve of a thunderous House hearing in which Republicans called for the agency’s head to resign.
     Cause of Action claims to have made its request for the messages back in November 2014 under the Freedom of Information, roughly a year after a report from the Inspector General’s Office found the IRS used “inappropriate criteria” to tag conservative groups seeking tax exemptions.
     Cause of Action requested the text-message records of five high-ranking agency officials for a one-week period preceding the last federal election, but the IRS responded that its retention policy allowed it to delete text messages after 14 days.
     The nonprofit’s federal complaint Monday says the Federal Records Act requires all federal agencies to keep records of employee electronic communications, and the National Archives has clearly stated that both text messages and instant messages qualify as federal records.
     “By failing to preserve a whole class of federal records (i.e., text messages) beyond a minimal time period, defendants are in violation of their statutory obligations relating to the preservation, maintenance, and safeguarding of records under the Federal Records Act,” the complaint states.
     Cause of Action takes issue with an agreement between the IRS and National Treasury Employees Union that says the agency will keep no log of instant messages between employees.
     “The MOU between the IRS and the National Treasury Employees Union created an IRS guideline and directive that improperly and unlawfully interferes with the Federal Records Act obligations of the Defendants to capture, preserve, and safeguard federal records, including instant messages, regardless of their form,” according to the complaint.
     Cause of Action filed its suit Monday, on the even of a House committee hearing on the IRS targeting scandal.
     House Republicans used that hearing today to clamor for the impeachment of the noticeably not-in-attendance IRS commissioner, John Koskinen.
     Cause of Action president Alfred Lechner Jr also issued a statement Tuesday on his group’s lawsuit, saying it “seeks to ensure that IRS follows the law.”
     “No agreement with a union or any other party can supersede Americans right to know how the IRS makes decisions,” Lechner added.
     The nonprofit is represented by in-house counsel John Vecchione.
     The IRS declined to comment on pending litigation.

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