A-89324, NOVEMBER 26, 1937, 17 COMP. GEN. 441

A-89324: Nov 26, 1937

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NOTWITHSTANDING THE CONTENTION OF HIS BENEFICIARY OTHERWISE ON THE BASIS THAT SHE IS NOT INDEBTED TO THE UNITED STATES AND THE INDEBTEDNESS AGAINST HER HUSBAND WAS NOT FOUND DUE UNTIL AFTER HIS DEATH. ALL FUNDS OF THE POSTAL ACCOUNT WERE HANDLED BY JAMES HENRY JONES. WHEN HE WAS ON DUTY AND ONLY WHEN HE WAS NOT ON DUTY DID THE POSTMASTER ATTEND TO MATTERS INVOLVING THE POSTAL ACCOUNT. JONES WAS ABSENT THE POSTMASTER WAS CALLED UPON TO FILL A REQUISITION FOR STAMPS AND IN DOING SO FOUND IT NECESSARY TO RESORT TO THE MAIN STAMP STOCK IN THE VAULT. WHERE IT WAS FOUND THAT CERTAIN BOXES LABELED AS CONTAINING 50 COILS OF 500 3-CENT STAMPS IN FACT CONTAINED STAMPS OF LESSER DENOMINATION OR STUBS OF MONEY ORDERS.

A-89324, NOVEMBER 26, 1937, 17 COMP. GEN. 441

SET-OFF - CIVILIAN RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS - EMPLOYEE'S INDEBTEDNESS NOT DETERMINED PRIOR TO HIS DEATH AMOUNTS DEDUCTED FROM PAY OF AN ASSISTANT POSTMASTER FOR CREDIT TO THE CIVIL SERVICE RETIREMENT AND DISABILITY FUND MAY BE APPLIED IN PARTIAL LIQUIDATION OF HIS INDEBTEDNESS TO THE UNITED STATES RESULTING FROM HIS MISAPPROPRIATION OF POSTAL FUNDS, NOTWITHSTANDING THE CONTENTION OF HIS BENEFICIARY OTHERWISE ON THE BASIS THAT SHE IS NOT INDEBTED TO THE UNITED STATES AND THE INDEBTEDNESS AGAINST HER HUSBAND WAS NOT FOUND DUE UNTIL AFTER HIS DEATH, SAID CONTENTION BEING OF NO AVAIL, THE BENEFICIARY SUCCEEDING ONLY TO THE RIGHT OF THE EMPLOYEE IN THE FUND, AND THE AMOUNT OF THE INDEBTEDNESS BEING PROPERLY CHARGEABLE TO HIM.

DECISION BY ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL ELLIOTT, NOVEMBER 26, 1937:

THERE HAS BEEN PRESENTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR CONSIDERATION THE CLAIM OF MAYME AUGUSTA JONES AS DULY DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY OF JAMES HENRY JONES, DECEASED, FOR REFUND OF RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS MADE FROM THE PAY OF SAID JAMES HENRY JONES AS ASSISTANT POSTMASTER AT SELMA, ALA., THE AMOUNT OF SUCH DEDUCTIONS WITH INTEREST BEING REPORTED AS IN THE AMOUNT OF $1,871.23, AGAINST WHICH THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT HAS ASSERTED A COUNTERCLAIM IN THE AMOUNT OF $3,504.50 BY REASON OF MISAPPROPRIATION OF POSTAL FUNDS BY SAID ASSISTANT POSTMASTER.

THE RECORD DISCLOSES THAT DURING THE TENURE OF OFFICE OF THE PRESENT POSTMASTER AT THE SELMA, ALA., POST OFFICE, ALL FUNDS OF THE POSTAL ACCOUNT WERE HANDLED BY JAMES HENRY JONES, ASSISTANT POSTMASTER, WHEN HE WAS ON DUTY AND ONLY WHEN HE WAS NOT ON DUTY DID THE POSTMASTER ATTEND TO MATTERS INVOLVING THE POSTAL ACCOUNT. ON THE AFTERNOON OF MAY 5, 1937, WHILE MR. JONES WAS ABSENT THE POSTMASTER WAS CALLED UPON TO FILL A REQUISITION FOR STAMPS AND IN DOING SO FOUND IT NECESSARY TO RESORT TO THE MAIN STAMP STOCK IN THE VAULT, WHERE IT WAS FOUND THAT CERTAIN BOXES LABELED AS CONTAINING 50 COILS OF 500 3-CENT STAMPS IN FACT CONTAINED STAMPS OF LESSER DENOMINATION OR STUBS OF MONEY ORDERS. ACTING ON THE INFORMATION THUS IN HIS POSSESSION THE POSTMASTER REPORTED THE MATTER TO A LOCAL POST OFFICE INSPECTOR AND TO THE INSPECTOR IN CHARGE AT CHATTANOOGA, TENN. AN EXAMINATION OF THE STAMP STOCK WAS BEGUN ON MAY 6 AND WITHIN AN HOUR AFTER THE INVESTIGATION BEGAN MR. JONES, THE ASSISTANT POSTMASTER, IS REPORTED AS HAVING COMMITTED SUICIDE. THE INVESTIGATION DISCLOSED THAT SUBSTITUTIONS HAD BEEN MADE IN SIX BOXES, THREE OF WHICH CONTAINED ONLY MONEY ORDER STUBS, TWO CONTAINED 50 COILS EACH OF 1-CENT STAMPS INSTEAD OF 3-CENT STAMPS AS LABELED, AND ONE CONTAINED 50 COILS OF 2 CENT STAMPS INSTEAD OF 3-CENT STAMPS AS LABELED. THE SHORTAGE RESULTING FROM SUCH SUBSTITUTION AMOUNTED TO $3,504.50. AN ADDITIONAL SHORTAGE OF $2.61WAS SUBSEQUENTLY DISCOVERED DUE TO THE MISAPPROPRIATION BY MR. JONES OF SPECIAL-DELIVERY FEES DUE MAIL CARRIERS, MAKING THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF THE INDEBTEDNESS AS FOUND BY THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT $3,507.11. THE DEPARTMENT HAS REQUESTED THERE BE SET OFF AGAINST SUCH INDEBTEDNESS THE AMOUNT TO THE CREDIT OF MR. JONES IN THE RETIREMENT FUND AND ALSO THE AMOUNT OF SALARY DUE HIM AND UNPAID AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH, AMOUNTING TO $40.47. THE WIDOW, WHO IS THE DULY DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY, HAS PROTESTED THE TAKING OF SUCH ACTION, CONTENDING THAT AS BENEFICIARY SHE BECAME ENTITLED TO THE AMOUNT IN THE RETIREMENT FUND TO THE CREDIT OF HER HUSBAND AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH, AT WHICH TIME NO CHARGE OF INDEBTEDNESS HAD BEEN RAISED AGAINST HIM, AND THAT SHE HERSELF IS NOT INDEBTED TO THE UNITED STATES.

THE AUTHORITY AND RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS OF THE GOVERNMENT UNDER AND BY VIRTUE OF SECTION 305 OF THE BUDGET AND ACCOUNTING ACT OF JUNE 10, 1921 (42 STATE. 24), REQUIRE SUCH OFFICERS TO CONSIDER BOTH DEBITS AND CREDITS IN THE SETTLEMENT OF CLAIMS FOR AND AGAINST THE UNITED STATES, AND IT IS WELL SETTLED THAT AN AMOUNT DUE THE UNITED STATES MAY BE WITHHELD OR COLLECTED FROM AMOUNTS DEDUCTED FROM EMPLOYEES FOR CREDIT TO THE CIVIL SERVICE RETIREMENT AND DISABILITY FUND. 16 COMP. GEN. 161 AND CASES CITED THEREIN.

AS TO THE CONTENTIONS OF THE CLAIMANT IN THIS CASE THAT SHE IS NOT INDEBTED TO THE UNITED STATES AND THAT AS THE INDEBTEDNESS AGAINST HER HUSBAND WAS NOT FOUND DUE UNTIL AFTER HIS DEATH IT CANNOT BE SET OFF AGAINST THE RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS OF WHICH SHE IS BENEFICIARY, IT MAY BE STATED ONLY THAT THE MISAPPROPRIATION OF THE POSTAL FUNDS WAS DURING THE LIFETIME OF THE ASSISTANT POSTMASTER, AND WHILE SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION WAS NOT DISCOVERED, AND THE AMOUNT THEREOF NOT DETERMINED UNTIL AFTER HIS DEATH, THE FACT REMAINS THAT SAID AMOUNT IS CHARGEABLE TO HIM. SUCH BEING THE CASE AND AS THE BENEFICIARY SUCCEEDS TO THE RIGHTS OF THE EMPLOYEE IN RESPECT OF THE RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS, NO GREATER RIGHT TO SUCH RETIREMENT DEDUCTIONS COULD PASS TO THE BENEFICIARY THAN THE EMPLOYEE HAD THERETO.

THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT HAVING FOUND THAT MR. JONES IS INDEBTED TO THE UNITED STATES IN THE AMOUNT OF $3,507.11, AND THE RECORD APPEARING TO SUPPORT THAT FINDING, THE AMOUNT OF $1,871.23 TO HIS CREDIT IN THE RETIREMENT FUND WILL BE APPLIED IN PART LIQUIDATION OF THE INDEBTEDNESS. THE SAME ACTION IS AUTHORIZED ALSO WITH RESPECT TO THE AMOUNT DUE MR. JONES FOR SALARY AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH.