Chesterton Tribune

 

 

County worker overpaid $17,000 is told to pay it back

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

A surprise glitch in the County payroll system was caught by the Porter County Auditor’s office after a maintenance worker reportedly received $17,000 higher than his salary in 2013.

County Council President Dan Whitten, D-At Large, and Vice-president Karen Conover, R-3rd, sent a letter to the employee on Friday asking that he repay the money as soon as possible.

The letter states that according to the State’s Uniform Compliance Guidelines the County is required to collect the overpayment and the subsequent FICA and PERF costs.

Whitten told the Chesterton Tribune on Monday that he demanded the money be reimbursed because the employee’s salary was being paid with taxpayer dollars.

“I don’t know who it was that screwed up. If you got paid too much money, you need to pay it back. It belongs to the taxpayers,” Whitten said.

County Auditor Robert Wichlinski, whose office handles the payroll for the County’s 600 full-time employees and 150 part-time employees, said the employee’s salary was being paid out of both the Expo Center’s budget and the County Commissioners’ budget, as he works in maintenance for both the Expo and the Sheriff’s Department.

The error went by unnoticed because no shortage of funds showed up in the Expo budget and it wasn’t discovered until the auditor’s office was doing the closeout for the end of the 2013 in preparing tax forms.

The employee should have received $35,250 total from both budgets but received an extra $17,625 from the Expo.

Wichlinski said the computer transfer is what created the problem and it was not apparent because there was no shortage of funds in the Expo budget. The employee was under the impression he had received a raise as there had been talk of giving raises by some Council members during the hearings for the 2013 County budgets, he said.

The problem has been corrected for 2014, Wichlinski said. The employee is still working for the County.

“It just happened,” he said. “We can’t keep track of 750 people. We just have to trust the department head. What they gave us is what we process.”

Department heads sign off on a biweekly form that payroll is correct and that there are ample funds in their budgets to carry through the year, Wichlinski said.

Former Expo Manager Ken Blaney, who was in charge of the facility at the time the 2013 budgets were turned in, said there were excess funds in the salary fund since he was docking his own pay because he was not working as much during the summer.

Blaney said he put most of his focus on the employees being paid part-time hourly. He said he was “definitely surprised” by the error.

“It’s too bad it happened,” he said.

Wichlinski said this is the first time he’s seen a matter like this in the years he’s been in office and he doesn’t believe it is occurring anywhere else in the County budgets. He said if there are any errors, his office will catch them when they reconcile funds on June 30.

He said the State Board of Accounts continues to implement ways for counties to improve payroll systems and time and attendance reports.

Whitten said, from his understanding, the employee is willing to reimburse the money.

 

 

Posted 2/18/2014