It appears that complaining about the IRS cost news anchorman Larry Connors his job this week. It’s kind of sad; Mr. Connors has been a local media celebrity for 37 years. First, for the full disclosure; Larry Connors is not a client of mine. If he were, I wouldn’t be allowed to discuss his case due to confidentiality laws. Since I don’t represent Mr. Connors (I‘ve never even met him), clearly there are things I don’t know about his case. That said, as an enrolled agent, I do IRS representation and I have experience with how the IRS handles these issues.
The whole thing boils down to a post Larry Connors made on his Facebook page. The page has been removed, but here’s the quote that he posted on May 13th:
“I don’t accept ‘conspiracy theories,’ but I do know that almost immediately after the interview, the IRS started hammering me. … Can I prove it? At this time, no. But it is a fact that since that April 2012 interview … the IRS has been pressuring me.”
The interview he’s talking about is one where Mr. Connors interviewed President Obama and asked him a rather pointed question about Mr. Obama’s vacations in light of the current economic crisis. Here is a link to that interview if you would like to see it. It’s only a minute 18 seconds long: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CookYzmUZk
The other important piece of information is that Larry Connors’ tax issues actually date back to 2008 and that he was paying his back taxes on a monthly installment agreement since the summer of 2011. Mr. Connors did not mention this fact in his Facebook post.
So those are the facts as presented by the press. Here’s what I think—
My best guess is that Mr. Connors made one of his monthly installment payments late. I’ve seen this happen to my own clients; you only have to be late on one payment by only one day and the IRS has the right to cancel your installment agreement – and they will. And they can be really nasty about it. Really nasty. My clients often say they feel like they’re being persecuted.
So, here you have Mr. Connors doing an interview with the president that he’s been told went too far. Shortly after the interview he receives IRS nasty-grams and eventually has a lien slapped on his home. (Note that he’s been paying his installment agreement the whole time here, it’s possible that at the time he is unaware that there was a late payment.) Then he sees the news story about certain groups being targeted by the IRS for political reasons. Is it unreasonable for him to think that he might have been a political target? I don’t think so.
The day the main IRS story broke, one of my not for profit clients called and said, “Did you see the news? That’s what happened to us!” Her group was required to jump through hoops and wait for months to obtain their status while other non-profit groups leap-frogged right past them without a hitch. (I know, I was the one doing the paperwork.) I confess, before I learned more about the actual groups involved, I sort of thought my client might have been one of the targeted agencies although I now know they weren’t in that group.
Now Larry Connors is out of a job because his employer claims he has a bias against the IRS. Dear KMOV, I have a news flash for you: Everybody has a bias against the IRS! But that said, Mr. Connors is a respected 37-year veteran journalist. His Facebook post was an opinion, not a news story. If he had found proof that the IRS really was pressuring him because of the interview—what would have been the lead news story at six o’clock! Clearly he knows the difference between news and opinion.
Here’s my opinion: A 37-year veteran costs a whole lot more in payroll than someone younger with less experience. And a 66 year old anchorman doesn’t look as pretty in HD as some of the sweet young reporters do. I think KMOV is using the Mr. Connors’ IRS Facebook post as an excuse to break his employment contract and reduce their operating costs. I think that’s the real story, but I don’t expect you to hear that on the KMOV news.
Since his dismissal, Mr. Connors and his attorneys have filed a lawsuit. Good luck, Larry!