Clinton Co. audit turns up calculation errors

Joe LoTemplio

Press Republican

Jun 20, 2018

An audit by the State Comptroller's Office revealed that Clinton County overpaid some employees for separation pay, and underpaid some others.

Thomas P. DiNapoli's office reviewed the county's bookkeeping for 2016 and 2017 and discovered that four former employees were overpaid a combined total of $10,089 for separation pay, and three were underpaid for a total of $403.

"I think overall we are in good shape, and 99 percent of our books were good, but we did have these small glitches, and we will take care of them," said County Legislature Chairman Harry McManus (D-Area 1, Champlain).

"We have quality people working for us, and there was no malice at all. It was just an arithmetic error."

The mistakes were discovered when the audit looked at 30 separation payments totaling $512,693 to former employees, a task undertaken to determine if they were made correctly, according to the comptroller's report.

It found that county employees did not accurately calculate separation payments made to the seven former employees.

As a result, one was overpaid $10,000, and three others were overpaid a combined total of $89.

In addition, one former employee was underpaid $334, and two former employees were underpaid a combined total of $69.

The report said the mistakes occurred because the payroll clerk made a calculation error, and inaccurate figures were used when calculating the payment of employees' accrued unused sick leave.

"When an employee retired, resigned or otherwise left county employment, the employee’s department was required to submit a personnel change report to the Personnel Department notifying them of the employee’s intent and the date they were leaving employment," the audit said.

An employee in the Personnel Department determined the worker’s unused leave balances, using sick and vacation leave balances taken from the county's financial software, and holiday and compensatory leave balances from the department where the person worked.

"The departments were not required to submit any supporting documentation to Personnel Department staff for these leave balances (i.e., leave accrual records)," it said.

"Instead, the Personnel Department staff relied solely on the leave balances provided by the departments’ designated timekeepers."

In one instance, the payroll clerk accurately calculated one employee's separation payment for unused sick leave and unused vacation time, but when combining these amounts, mistakenly added an additional $10,000.

As a result, the former employee received a separation payment totaling $42,996 instead of the $32,996 to which she was entitled, the report said.

McManus said county attorney James Coffey has sent the employees who were overpaid a letter explaining the situation and asking for the money back.

"We haven't heard back yet, and we will see what our options are," he said.

"This is kind of uncharted territory for us, but we will be as flexible as humanly possible."

The county has also taken steps to pay those who were underpaid separation benefits.