- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The D.C. government has mistakenly paid at least $205,000 to more than a dozen employees in recent years, and in three cases allowed workers to keep the extra money.

Records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show the D.C. government since 2002 has been asked to waive at least $205,000 in erroneous payments to 16 employees.

City law permits the waivers in certain cases. However, officials are not permitting The Washington Times to see sections of the records that show the names of the employees who were allowed to keep more than $40,000 in mistaken payments.

An attorney for the city’s Department of Human Resources said disclosing the information would constitute a “clearly unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy” of the employees in question.

The Times, which is appealing the denial, sought records after the city recently took two former employees to court to recoup another $40,000 in erroneous overpayments.

Records show one of the mistaken overpayments in the roughly $205,000 was $75,712 — paid to an employee identified in city documents only as “executive director.”

The unnamed executive sought a waiver to avoid repayment, but city officials denied the request.

The District also denied a waiver sought by an employee identified as “lieutenant” for $45,590 in overpayments because of a “health-benefit discrepancy.”

D.C. officials say such overpayments are rare among the hundreds of thousands of financial transactions made each year with employees.

The city often recoups the money through the voluntary efforts of employees, said Maryann Young, spokeswoman for the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

“As long as we have the consent of the employee that the overpayment is erroneous, the recovery can be made through payroll,” she said.

Michael Rupert, a spokesman for the city’s human resources office, said requests for waivers seeking to avoid repayment are almost always denied.

“The waivers are few and far between,” he said.

Mr. Rupert said there have been cases in which waivers were granted because of financial hardships.

Under city law, the District can waive repayment when the money is disbursed as a result of an administrative error and there is no indication of fraud.

Of the 16 employees who sought waivers to avoid repaying erroneous payments since 2002, three were allowed to keep all or part of the money.

The largest waiver occurred in 2003, when city officials allowed an employee whose job title was listed as “unknown” to keep nearly $30,000 paid out because of an administrative error.

In another case, the District last year waived $11,336 in erroneous overpayments to a city contracting specialist. The extra money was paid as a result of an administrative error.

In 2004, a psychiatric nursing assistant was allowed to keep $945 of the $1,311 in overpayments also paid because of an administrative error.

The overpayments listed in response to The Times’ open-records request do not include waiver requests for overpayments less than $1,000. Those matters are handled by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

The reasons cited for overpayments in the city documents included salary overpayment, health-benefit discrepancy, administrative error and severance overpayment.

Attorneys for the District recently filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court demanding a former public schools employee pay $10,931 in overpayment and legal fees.

In addition, the District’s Office of the Attorney General filed a similar lawsuit against a former employee at the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. The employee resigned in April 2002 with what was supposed to be a $7,609 severance, but the District paid the employee more than $30,000 by mistake, court records show.

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