Internal Revenue Service watchdogs are looking into more than 70 reports of threats or inappropriate comments made to agency workers following a private plane crash into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, that killed the pilot and an agency employee last month.
National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley told The Washington Post that workers are hearing jokes about taking flying lessons and supportive statements about the pilot, A. Joseph Stack.
Stack posted a suicide note online detailing his frustrations with the IRS over the past 30 years. It concluded",Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well,” The Wall Street Journal reported. In addition to the death of Stack and IRS employee Vernon Hunter on February 18, 13 people were injured and fire engulfed the building where 190 IRS employees worked.
The newspaper also reported that the office of J. Russell George, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration, investigates approximately 900 threats made against IRS employees annually. That number rose to more than 1,000 in 2009.
The Federal Times reported: “Weapons violations on federal properties increased by 10 percent over the last year; threats against IRS facilities are up by 11 percent. And while threats are up, the level of protection at federal buildings is down. The Federal Protective Service has shrunk by 15 percent over the last seven years; hundreds of IRS buildings have no security at all.”
Michelle Lowry, who processes forms for the IRS in Austin, told The Dallas Morning News that people display their hatred for the IRS in many ways: by slipping razor blades and pushpins into the envelope with their W-2 forms, adding nasty notes or even a liquid that looks like blood. She said she never worried about her own safety until now. "I'm a little worried, honestly", she said. "Every time I walk into the building, I'm going to think about it."
Facebook pages supporting the Austin attack arose after the crash, and Stack’s daughter, Samantha Bell, defended her father's motives in an ABC’s Good Morning America interview: “If nobody comes out and speaks out on behalf of injustice, then nothing will ever be accomplished", she said. "But I do not agree with his last action, with what he did. But I do agree about the government."
The American Red Cross is honoring a passerby who helped several people get out of the burning building that day. Robin DeHaven, who was driving by the Echelon 1 building in a truck carrying a large extension ladder, will be recognized at a ceremony this week.