Under the Dome

Audit finds prison officers left without paychecks to correct overpayments

A state audit released Tuesday says poor internal controls and unclear policies led to six officers at a Goldsboro prison being inadvertently overpaid and then having their entire paychecks and benefits withheld to recoup the money.

The six officers at the now-closed Wayne Correctional Center were given premium pay over four years because they drove buses taking inmates to appointments such as doctors and court appearances, which often required them to start between 2 and 4 a.m. and sometimes work 12 or more hours a shift.

A payroll technician discovered in March 2012 that the six officers were incorrectly coded in the state payroll system as working night shifts, which qualified them for the higher rate. The total overpayments amounted to more than $58,000. The state Department of Public Safety recalculated the payment and determined only some of it was inappropriate, reducing the amount to nearly $36,000.

But when the officers were re-coded from night shift to day shift the payroll system automatically cut off their paychecks and health insurance to recoup the overpayments. The department worked out a repayment schedule.

The State Auditor disagrees with the recalculation, and says the entire $58,000 should be recovered from the officers because state law requires it.

In its response to the audit, the public safety department says the premium pay was based on past interpretations by its human resources office, but that it would begin collecting the money from the officers.