Via NBC News:

A former manager at the IRS Cincinnati office at the center of the controversy over the targeting of conservative political organizations seeking tax-exempt status tells NBC News she doesn’t think low-level employees acted on their own in flagging them for further scrutiny.

But she also said that in her time at the IRS she has never known politics or partisan motivations to play any role in the office’s work, and doesn’t think it did in this case.

Bonnie Esrig, a 38-year IRS veteran, worked as an area manager in the Determinations Unit of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations department in 2011 and 2012. According to a federal audit and IRS Congressional testimony, some employees in the unit used inappropriate selection criteria to flag the applications of Tea Party and other conservative organizations for further scrutiny, according to an audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. (Esrig worked on tax-exemption status issues in the IRS office, but for other types of organizations, such as charter schools – not on the political advocacy groups cases at the center of the controversy. She retired from the IRS in January.)

The audit released last week by the Department of the Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration found that IRS employees in that unit “targeted” conservative political advocacy organizations for additional review based on keywords in their organizations’ names, such as “Tea Party.”

Esrig said that recent media headlines reporting that “rogue” agents were responsible and questioning whether the Obama Administration had played a role, surprised her, given her first-hand knowledge of the unit and its work.

“Those were things that were not consistent with my knowledge of the way the organization works,” Esrig said.

Esrig said she doesn’t believe that a few employees in the Cincinnati office made the decisions to use the inappropriate selection criteria – as the IRS has claimed to Congress and as the Treasury Inspector General reported in its audit.

According to a congressional source, the IRS reported in a briefing to Congress that two “rogue” employees were responsible for the use of the criteria.

But Esrig said that doesn’t make sense based on her experience.

“The idea of two rogue employees,” Esrig said, “is inconsistent with the kinds of checks and balances that are inherent in the way the organization is set up.”