Lois Lerner was the public face of a scandal that brought the IRS to its knees this past summer: revelations that it had been improperly scrutinizing conservative groups seeking tax exempt status.
Since her resignation last month, the former head of the IRS’s exempt-organizations division, who lives in Bethesda, has evidently been looking to fill the extra time with some volunteer work. She’s seeking a spot on the Montgomery County citizens panel that reviews grant applications from tax-exempt, nonprofit community groups.
Lerner wrote to County Council President Nancy Navarro on Oct. 9 expressing her interest in serving on the Grants Advisory Group, a panel appointed by the council to screen applications for funding support. Last winter the 29-member committee reviewed more than 200 requests for aid in the fiscal year that began July 1. The council ultimately approved $6.8 million in grants, many to groups that help with basic safety net services such as food programs, eviction prevention and utility assistance.
Lerner’s letter, with a resume attached, mentions how she worked with exempt organizations to redesign IRS Form 990, which they must use to disclose their activities, finances and governance.
“During that process, I learned a lot about the qualities that make an organization effective and efficient,” she wrote. “I believe that knowledge would be useful to the team determining where the county should spend its limited grant funds.”
Lerner added that as a former government employee, “I also understand the need to get the ‘best bang for the buck’ when spending county funds. I believe my experience makes me a useful addition to the decision making process.”
When reached by phone at her home Thursday evening, Lerner said, “I’m not talking to any reporters, I’m sorry.”
Navarro (D-Midcounty) said she was not aware of Lerner’s application, one of scores routinely submitted by residents wanting to serve on county boards and commissions. Asked if Lerner seemed like an appropriate choice for the advisory group, Navarro laughed briefly and said she wasn’t sure. But Lerner’s name would be forwarded along with others, Navarro said, to the council’s Health and Human Resources and Government Operations committees for consideration.
“All I can tell you is obviously when there is an opening for a board or commission, the application process is open to everybody,” Navarro said. “When we get the applications and review them, we’ll narrow down to those we think fit.”