By Jim McElhatton
A lawyer in the IRS ethics office is facing the possibility of being disbarred, according to records that accuse her of lying to a court-appointed board and hiding what she’d done with money from a settlement that was supposed to go to two medical providers who had treated her client.
The disciplinary arm of the D.C. Court of Appeals has recommended that Takisha McGee, a section manager in the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility, lose her law license over the charge, which stems from a personal injury case she worked about a year before she joined the tax agency.
Ms. McGee, who recently gave a speech to the Florida bar titled “When your license to practice before the IRS is on the line,” acknowledged in a phone interview Tuesday that her own job is on the line as she fights disbarment proceedings.
“Does it keep me up worrying? Yes,” she said. “As it relates to my job, may I possibly lose it? Yes, I face that fact each and every day.”
The case could pose a credibility issue for the IRS, whose professional conduct office is the watchdog charged with ensuring all tax professionals “adhere to professional standards and follow the law.”
Despite that duty, the office has dispatched Ms. McGee to lecture professionals about the importance of maintaining high ethical standards.
Ms. McGee said she had notified the IRS about the pending disbarment proceedings.
While records on the recommended disbarment are already public, an IRS spokesman, Mark Hanson, cited privacy rules on Tuesday in saying the agency was unlikely to comment.
Ms. McGee called the disbarment recommendation the result of a “one-time mistake.”
The D.C. Court of Appeals’ board of professional responsibility, though, wasn’t convinced.
In its 43-page report, the board detailed the personal injury case, which resulted in an $8,900 insurance settlement. But after receiving the settlement check, she failed to pay about $3,000 combined to two medical providers whom she was supposed to reimburse for treatment given to her client, according to records.
The board found Ms. McGee took $7,850 from an account set aside for her client’s settlement through a series of “counter withdrawals.” But other than $5,000 paid to her client, “it is not clear where these funds went,” the board report stated.
The client also said she couldn’t reach Ms. McGee, who later testified that she’d shut down her fax and cellphone about month after getting the settlement because she’d received a tentative offer to work at the IRS.
In 2011 the client wrote to the D.C. Bar requesting that any complaints or petitions against Ms. McGee be dismissed. However, the client later testified that she wrote the letter because Ms. McGee had asked her to drop the case and said that she would subpoena her cousin and godmother if the case went forward.
What’s more, the board found “clear and convincing” evidence that Ms. McGee provided false testimony about her handling of the settlement money during a hearing in the case.
“There are no unique and compelling circumstances here that could justify reducing the recommended and presumptive sanction from disbarment to a lesser sanction,” the board wrote in its ruling, which it made several months before Ms. McGee spoke before the Florida bar.
“In addition to intentionally misappropriating third-party funds, respondent also violated a number of other ethics rules and gave false testimony during the hearing,” the board concluded.
Ms. McGee said her current situation gives her a better understanding of the experiences of professionals facing disbarment or suspension proceedings.
“As it relates to someone who is in a position in terms of giving advice to other practitioners, I tell them to watch what you’re doing and be careful. You never know. If you don’t know something, don’t try to take it upon yourself. And if there are other issues going on, then definitely seek guidance.”