Authorization of Public Bill Payment

A-23019: May 24, 1928

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This document presents a decision on authorization of public bills, and is regarding a letter of Mat 15, 1928, transmitting unpaid public bills Nos. 34 and 35, Navy Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I., stated in favor of William R. Peckham and Everett Gray, respectively, for the sum of $50 each in payment of rewards to said parties for the recovery and return to the torpedo station of two torpedoes that had previously been lost in that vicinity. This decision discusses whether payment on the public bills is authorized.

It has been held by the accounting officers of the Government that unless a reward, either express or implied, has been offered beforehand for finding and returning lost Government property, there was no legal obligation on the United States to make payment for the recovery of such property. But since commanding officers of naval stations are authorized by Navy regulations to offer and pay amounts not in excess of $50 for the recovery of lost torpedoes, and since it is stated that it is the general understanding in the vicinity of the naval station at Newport, R.I., that payments will be made for the recovery of torpedoes when recovery has not been made by Navy personnel within a reasonable period and recovery appears doubtful, under the circumstances, the regulations may be considered as impliedly holding out a standing offer to reward finders of lost torpedoes in amounts, not to exceed the amount stated in the regulations, to be determined by proper authority, for the recovery of such lost torpedoes. Accordingly, it is advised that payment on the public bills which are returned herewith, if otherwise correct, is authorized.