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Accounting errors lead to payroll problems for 105 state employees in Prince William

Rosalind Helderman

Accounting errors at the Virginia Department of Health dating back to 2004 have resulted in payroll problems for 105 employees based in Prince William, with 51 employees receiving too much pay in recent years and 54 employees receiving too little.

State officials met with affected employees Tuesday, announcing that employees and former workers who have been underpaid a total of $83,663 will receive the money in lump sum checks on Nov. 1, said Deputy Commissioner for Community Health Services Jeff Lake. Some employees were underpaid less than $10. One employee is owed $13,000.

Meanwhile, state law requires that employees who were overpaid return the money, Lake said. In all, employees owe $38,625, with some owing less than $10 and one employee needing to repay $14,400. Lake said state law requires that employees repay the money over the same timeframe as they were overpaid. Employees have 30 days to decide how to repay the money. Those who believe their repayment plan would be a financial hardship could receive extensions, but Lake said all the money must be repaid.

"Obviously, the employees who were overpaid were surprised," Lake said of the mood at today's meeting, held at a church in Manassas. "We're very sensitive to the needs of our employees. We'll try to resolve this with as little disruption as possible, consistent with state law."

Lake said the errors came in calculating supplemental payments that the employees received as part of a 30-year program designed to help the department retain top employees given the Northern Virginia region's high cost of living.

He provided few details of the exact nature of the errors, saying they were related to a "confidential personnel matter" involving a former state employee. But he said that while the state police and the state auditor of public accounts will review the errors as a matter of policy, no evidence of wrongdoing has turned up.

"We don't have any basis for believing it was intentional," Lake said.

The cost-of-living supplemental payments are shared jointly by the state and local governments in Northern Virginia, so Prince William County and the state will share the net $45,038 cost of repaying employees, Lake said.

He said problems were not technical in nature and were unrelated to recent issues with the state's computer network.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  September 14, 2010; 4:35 PM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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