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Clerk defends payroll error costing county $6,406

July 14, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA.

Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan was defending her actions again Thursday after some Jefferson County government employees were paid too much and some people who no longer were employed by the county got paychecks in May, Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober told the Jefferson County Commission on Thursday.

The mistake ended up putting Jefferson County's government payroll $6,406 in debt, forcing the commission to take $6,406 out of its general fund to make up for the shortage. Commission members also agreed to have a Martinsburg, W.Va., accounting firm find where the $6,406 went.

The issue came to light during an afternoon discussion between the commission, Boober, Boober's chief tax deputy Teresa Hendricks and Maghan, who oversees the finance department. The finance department handles payroll.

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Hendricks recounted numerous problems she has had with the finance office and pleaded with the commission to help her. Boober said the situation has not been reflective of good business.

"There needs to be a better accounting of money coming into this county," Boober said.

Maghan defended her department and said she has expressed a willingness to work with Boober on the issue.

"We're not trying to disrupt the county funds. They're being picky and petty," Maghan told the commission.

Boober said the problem started when the finance department used payroll records from January this year instead of May to make May's payroll. It resulted in some employees being overpaid, some employees being underpaid and some people being paid who no longer worked for the county, Boober said.

Boober, who became involved in the situation because he also serves as the county treasurer, said it is unclear how some employees became overpaid.

Boober said some people were paid twice because they received a direct deposit for payment and an actual check. Boober said the debt was much larger than $6,406 before workers who were overpaid reimbursed the county and the people who no longer worked for the county gave their checks back, Boober said.

Boober said he sent a letter to Maghan dated June 6 inquiring about how the matter was going to be resolved.

Boober said he received a letter back from Maghan saying the matter had been corrected.

Boober said he wrote another letter to Maghan asking her where the $6,406 is and Maghan responded in a letter saying that her office does not handle reconciliation matters and that it was the duty of the sheriff's department.

Maghan defended her office by saying that what happened with the May payroll only accounted for about a 4.9 percentage error margin. Maghan said she was told that a mistake margin of up to 10 percent is considered normal.

Maghan said she felt that the correspondence over the matter was handled in a "juvenile manner" and felt Boober was not working with her as a partner.

"I have good confidence in my office," Maghan said.

Commission member Jane Tabb took offense with the way Maghan was responding to the situation and Commission member Jim Surkamp said he did not want to see the situation become too divisive.

Commission member Dale Manuel, who was leading Thursday's meeting, said measures need to be taken to make sure such a situation does not happen again.

"I don't want to come back here," Manuel said.

The commission agreed to have the accounting firm of COXHOLLIDA LLP find the $6,406 and set up rules and procedures to prevent such a situation from occurring again.

Last year, controversy arose after Maghan hired Renaissance Refinishing of Frederick, Md., a firm owned by her brother-in-law, B. Randall Maghan, to provide the lunches for poll workers during a June 25 pension bond election.

Maghan, whose office oversees elections in the county, said she decided to offer lunch to the poll workers during the election because it is difficult for the workers to leave their stations and because they must be there for about 16 hours.

Maghan said she paid the $1,952 catering bill with her own money, but wanted to be reimbursed for the meals from the county's voter registration fund.

The commission decided not to reimburse Maghan for the meals.

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