DOT Workers Asked to Repay Overpayment
Posted August 21, 2003 8:12 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — More than 12,000 state transportation workers will have to repay $1.9 million they took home after an accounting error that several of their department's financial officials kept secret.
Wallace Goode has worked for the state Department of Transportation for 25 years. He had no clue he and thousands of his co-workers received a little something extra in last year's paychecks.
"If they overpaid us, I sure didn't see it in my check," he said.
Goode was also not happy to learn the state now wants him to pay it back.
"Instead of paying it back, I think they should be giving us more money," he said.
The overpayments, which amounted to an extra day's pay for each employee, reportedly went to salaried employees of the DOT's Division of Highways and Division of Motor Vehicles.
Department of Transportation
Secretary Lyndo Tippett learned about the payroll error Tuesday. In a statement, he said, "The payroll error is very serious and deserves immediate corrective action. That's why, as a first step, I accepted the resignation of Wayne Stallings."
C. Wayne Stallings, DOT's chief financial officer, said he learned about the error in April but didn't tell Tippett or other department leaders.
"I guess it was sort of a cover-up," Stallings said.
He said he took full responsibility and acknowledged that he had no authority to allow employees to keep the overpayments.
After learning that Stallings tried for months to cover-up the mistake, Gov. Mike Easley urged Tippett to take action, leading to Stallings' resignation.
"I think it's quite appropriate. This is the people's money and it's not up to individual state employees overseeing payroll to determine whether they are or not going to follow procedures," he said.
Tippett said employees will be required to repay the money. The overpayments started in July 2002 and continued for a year. A state employee being paid about $30,000 would have been overpaid about $115.
State Employees Association Executive Director Dana Cope said it is not right to ask DOT workers to payback a day's salary when teachers, who received extra bonus money last year did not.
"To treat one group of public employees different from another group of public employees is blantantly unfair," he said.
A state law, signed in June, states overpayments shall be recouped, but Cope points out it took effect after the DOT mistake. Some possible payback scenarios being discussed include taking the money out of workers' $550 dollar bonus due in October, giving up a vacation day or working extra hours.