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Hourly payroll error absorbed
Olson offers to repay Town

Dan Olson, Town administrator, will not be responsible for refunding overpayments of five Town employees’ salaries, Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen decided at its Nov. 6 meeting.

Olson paid five Town staff members a total of $1,767.47 above the salary caps approved by the Board. Leisure Services Director Sue Stuhl filed a grievance about the issue Aug. 28 and the personnel committee examined the matter.

“The position of the personnel committee is that Mr. Olson knew what the caps of the ranges were and he approved raises above the caps,” Gary Schmitz, personnel committee spokesman, said.

They found the funds should be repaid, but did not specify by whom.

“We didn’t say who should pay it back in our hearing because Mr. Olson said it was his mistake and he would volunteer to pay it back,” Schmitz said.

“The issue we have … is that the committee has said the money must be paid back, and it is up to you to determine how or who should be paying this back to the Town,” Janet Curry, Town’s human resources director, said.

“I perceive this was an honest mistake, and I perceive there was no malicious intent involved in this action,” Mayor W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III said.

“I would suggest the Town simply absorb the overpayment and let this be bygones,” he added.

“It’s standard industry practice … that if an employee is overpaid, that money be paid back within the tax year. What you’re proposing now would set a precedent,” Schmitz said.

He asked what the Town would do if an employee being paid $5,000 per pay period were, through an accounting error, paid $50,000 instead.

“You’re suggesting that was an honest error and the employee shouldn’t have to pay it back,” he said.

“What damage would we do to the world if we chose to pay this back out of the Town’s general funds?” Ford asked. Ford motioned to do this; Haynes seconded. The motion failed, with the other aldermen voting in dissent.

“If there’s going to be any payment, it seems to me, truthfully, that it is the people unjustly enriched that should pay it,” Vice Mayor J. Michael Haynes said.

Alderman John Williams made another motion, that the salaried employees be required to repay their additional salary but the Town absorb the money overpaid the hourly employees. He also motioned Olson be reprimanded for his actions. Ald-erman Tom Rosseel seconded.

“When we say reprimand, what does that mean?” Haynes asked.

“I don’t think the point is to be punitive to Mr. Olson. I think he intended to do what he did; I don’t think he understood his mistake,” he added.

Rosseel asked the recommendation from the personnel committee, which states: “the Town administrator acted improperly and knowingly violated Section 11 of the Farragut Personnel Policy in granting salary increases in July 2008 without the approval of the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen,” be copied into Olson’s permanent record as a reprimand.

The motion passed with only Haynes dissenting.


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