Camp Pendleton civilian police officer owed over $ 38,500, government settles for $ 356.80 – Orange County Register

Brad Ducat, a lieutenant with the Camp Pendleton Police Department, holds a letter telling him he does not have to reimburse the government $ 38,510 due to a federal accounting problem. He is pictured in Oceanside on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register / SCNG)

OCEANSIDE – After a recent eight-hour shift at the Provost Marshal’s office at Camp Pendleton, Lt. Brad Ducat came home to find a big package of Defense Financial and Accounting Services – Department of Defense payroll for civilians working for the Navy and the Marine Corps.

As he leafed through the 10-page document that presented the federal government’s response to his request to forgo the $ 38,000 he was ordered to pay a year ago, he said, he was full. hopeful but nervous.

“Initially, I just wanted to find the answer,” said Ducat. “I went through everything but I couldn’t go fast enough to find the conclusion. I had to sit down and read it all.

After a long reading of the case law pages and the committee’s conclusions, Ducat found the decision he and his family were hoping for. On page 5 of the document it read: “Under the provisions of 5 USC, we hereby waive $ 38,509.99 of the government claim.

The debt was the amount Ducat was told he had to repay after the accounting department alerted him and 61 other civilian police officers at Camp Pendleton that they had been overpaid due to an error by the Ministry of Defense.

“We’ve all been thinking about it for a long time,” said Ducat, who has worked on the base for 7.5 years. “Finally getting something is a relief. “

Ducat was the first in his department to obtain the reprieve. Since Ducat’s notice arrived on March 8, a dozen other Camp Pendleton officers have received waiver notices.

Due to the accounting error, federal officials said, officers were paid the wrong pay scale from 2008 to 2016. 41 other civilian police officers at Naval Base Fallbrook were also affected.

Individual debts ranged from $ 12,000 to $ 80,000. The average overpayment was $ 3,500 per year, said Robert Richey, a kindergarten to grade 9 officer and president of the police union, the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Defense finance and accounting officials confirmed this week that 103 police officers from Camp Pendleton and Fallbrook were overpaid.

“Ninety-seven (officers) have submitted exemption requests,” said Steve Burghardt, spokesperson for the Department of Finance and Accounting Services. “Eighteen partial waivers have been approved and 79 requests are currently under review. Six affected employees did not submit a waiver request.

Burghardt said that so far all waivers for overpayment amounts due between 2008 and 2016 have been approved.

Police were notified by DFAS in April 2017 that the error had been discovered. They were told that they would be required to repay a certain amount, but would not know how much until an audit was done.

On March 17, 2018, letters of credence, which also went to former employees, some of whom are now retired and who had never been formally informed of the error a year earlier, detailed the sums due.

The Navy’s Office of Civilian Human Resources – which determines the rate of pay for their employees – discovered that an incorrect rate of pay based on location was used to set the wages of some employees at Camp Pendleton and Fallbrook, reported said Burghardt. Officers were paid at a rate expected for officers based in San Diego.

“The Navy’s OCHR dealt with actions to correct the error, which made the employees appear as overpaid and put them in debt,” he said.

At Camp Pendleton, base officials held town halls to help police understand what happened and how to move forward.

Ducat, 49, and others had until April 18 of last year to submit exemption files. Police officers who left the department had their last paycheck taken, Ducat said.

“None of us are rich,” he said, adding that most of the officers in the department are veterans of the Navy and, like him, choose to do the job because they want to stay close to the Corps. of the Marines. “If we had to pay something like this, it should have been minimum payments. No one would have had a lump sum to reimburse.

Union President Richey turned to then Defense Secretary James Mattis for help.

“We contacted him and his office wrote a letter to Marine Corps Headquarters to look into the matter immediately,” said Richey, who was told he owed more than $ 48,000. Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein also sent letters to Mattis’ office asking that the debt be canceled and the collection process halted.

The Department of Defense sent advisers to Camp Pendleton to help officers complete their waiver requests.

“I’m glad the majority of the debt is relieved,” Richey said. “I haven’t heard anything since I submitted my waiver nine months ago. We have that over our head and all of a sudden we get a deduction. With debt collectors or child support payments, you are notified that there will be a garnishment. All of a sudden the government takes the money when it wants it. In some cases, agents have had money withdrawn before being informed of their waiver.

In Ducat’s case, the letter telling him that the $ 38,509.99 had been canceled said he would still have to pay back $ 356.80 – the amount he was overpaid in the weeks following the discovery of the accounting error.

On March 21, he noticed that his paycheck was short. $ 356.80 was missing.

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