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Workers told to repay bonuses from 1994

What government giveth, government can taketh away.

By Karen Datko May 19, 2010 2:27PM

Isn't there some sort of moral statute of limitations on this: About 180 employees of a Georgia county have been told to return a total of $39,690 they were overpaid -- in 1994.


Is this another sign of how desperate some local governments are because of the recession?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains the situation this way:

The payroll anomaly dates back to Sept. 30, 1994, when the county adjusted employee pay cycles. The adjustment resulted in shortening one pay period from 14 days to 12 days. Under normal circumstances, employees who worked the shortened pay cycle would have received less pay, but to avoid financial hardship, paychecks were increased to counteract any shortfall.

How thoughtful they were at the time.


The money is being referred to as a payroll "advance." The article says Gwinnett County has already collected $75,186 from 329 other employees by subtracting the overpayment from their paychecks when they retired.


Now county officials are revved up to get whatever else is owed, and calling the last of the bonus payments due. Anyone among the 180 who is still working for the county can "apply it toward vacation leave or a floating holiday, or they can make a cash payment," the AJC says.


Let's see: A total of $114,876 in overpayments to 509 employees works out to about $226 each. Of course, the amount would vary depending on the pay of each worker.


What do you think? It seems fair that the 180 employees should have to pay the money back if so many others have already been docked at retirement. But rather than a housekeeping measure -- the county's chief financial officer said it's "a project to clean up receivables and to eliminate outstanding obligations wherever possible" -- it seems more like a desperate move.

Gwinnett County slashed spending by $387 million this year and also raised taxes -- a standard formula these days as state and local governments struggle to continue providing services while revenues shrink.


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