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IRS agent calls hearings unfair

An Internal Revenue Service agent accused a Senate panel of trampling her rights by allowing testimony about a 1994 raid on a Virginia restaurant owner who is suing her for $20-million.

"I am extremely upset that you and your colleagues have permitted a party to a pending lawsuit to try his case to your committee, without the benefit of a judge, rules, cross-examination or opposition," IRS agent Carol E. Willman wrote the committee.

She referred to the Senate Finance Committee's decision to allow John Colaprete, owner of the Jewish Mother restaurants in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Va., to testify last week at hearings on alleged abuses by IRS criminal investigators.

Colaprete and his business partners are suing Willman and several other IRS and state agents for $20-million, accusing them of violating his civil rights in a raid on the restaurant and their homes. No criminal charges were ever filed as a result of the raids, which were based partly on testimony of a bookkeeper Colaprete had recently fired.

Colaprete testified even though a federal judge last year complained the restaurant owners were engaged in excessive pretrial publicity in the case.

"I have now been publicly branded a criminal on national television not only by a person who stands to recover $20-million, but by members of the United States Senate," Willman wrote. Reached by telephone Monday, she declined to comment.

Ginny Flynn, spokeswoman for the committee chairman, Sen. William V. Roth Jr., R-Del., said she had not seen Willman's letter.

"We did try to discourage witnesses from naming specific names in their testimony, for this very reason," she said.

Senate debates overhaul

WASHINGTON _ After shining a harsh light last week on ills of the Internal Revenue Service, the Senate turned Monday to a bill promising to overhaul the agency. Major issues remain unresolved, including how to pay the bill's full $19.3-billion cost.

The bill is expected to pass by a wide margin by Thursday after several days of debate. It would create a board to oversee the IRS and strengthen taxpayer rights.