WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service did not follow the law when it failed to report the loss of records belonging to a senior IRS executive, the nation's top archivist told Congress Tuesday.
"Any agency is required to notify us when they realize they have a problem," David Ferriero, archivist of the U.S. during a House Oversight and Government Reform committee hearing.
In June 2011, former IRS executive Lois Lerner's computer crashed, resulting in the loss of records that are sought in investigations into the agency targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. At the time, the agency tried to recover the records, but without success.
Republicans have questioned the timing of the hard drive crash, suggesting key records sought in the investigation have conveniently gone missing.
In a rare evening hearing before the same committee Monday, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said that he has seen no evidence anyone committed a crime when the agency lost emails that might shed light on the targeting of tea party and other political groups before the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Pressed by a congressman, Tuesday, Ferriero would not state that the IRS broke the law. He would only say that the agency didn't "follow" the law.
"Federal agencies are responsible for preventing the unauthorized disposition of federal records, including their unlawful or accidental destruction, deletion, alteration, or removal from federal custody," he said. "When an agency becomes aware of an incident of unauthorized destruction, they must report the incident to us."
The National Archives and Records Administration did not learn about the lost records until earlier this month, Ferriero said.
Tuesday's was the third hearing held since it was disclosed on June 13 that some of Lerner's emails were missing due to a hard drive failure. Lerner has refused to answer questions, citing her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself.