B-154239, JUL. 21, 1964

B-154239: Jul 21, 1964

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CERTIFIED THAT THE CASE IS ONE PROBABLY REQUIRING THE EXERCISE OF THE POWERS OF THE POSTMASTER GENERAL OVER FINES. WHO WAS NOT THE RIGHTFUL PAYEE THEREOF. THE FINANCE OFFICER STATES THAT PAYMENT TO THE WRONG PERSON WAS NOT DUE TO FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF THE POSTMASTER AND REQUESTS THAT THE POSTMASTER BE ALLOWED A CREDIT OF $40 IN HIS ACCOUNT. THE ERROR WAS SUBSEQUENTLY DISCOVERED AND THE $40 CHARGED TO HESTER'S ACCOUNT. WE CANNOT CONCUR WITH THE VIEW EXPRESSED BY THE FINANCE OFFICER THAT THE LOSS HERE INVOLVED WAS NOT DUE TO FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF THE POSTMASTER AT BASILE. HE MUST HAVE KNOWN THAT RICHARD HAD RECEIVED MAIL AT GENERAL DELIVERY IN MAMOU. SINCE MAMOU IS A SECOND CLASS OFFICE HAVING CITY DELIVERY SERVICE.

B-154239, JUL. 21, 1964

TO THE POSTMASTER GENERAL:

BY LETTERS DATED JANUARY 22 AND APRIL 17, 1964, THE FINANCE OFFICER, BUREAU OF FINANCE, POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT, PURSUANT TO APPROPRIATE DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY, TRANSMITTED FOR OUR CONSIDERATION CASE NO. 122319 -K, AND CERTIFIED THAT THE CASE IS ONE PROBABLY REQUIRING THE EXERCISE OF THE POWERS OF THE POSTMASTER GENERAL OVER FINES, PENALTIES, FORFEITURES, AND LIABILITIES, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF 39 U.S.C. 2401.

THE CASE RELATES TO A SHORTAGE OF $40 IN THE ACCOUNTS OF M. J. HESTER, POSTMASTER AT BASILE, LOUISIANA, WHICH RESULTED FROM THE CASHING OF A TREASURY CHECK FOR A PERSON OF THE SAME NAME AS THE PAYEE, WHO WAS NOT THE RIGHTFUL PAYEE THEREOF. THE FINANCE OFFICER STATES THAT PAYMENT TO THE WRONG PERSON WAS NOT DUE TO FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF THE POSTMASTER AND REQUESTS THAT THE POSTMASTER BE ALLOWED A CREDIT OF $40 IN HIS ACCOUNT.

THE FILE BEFORE OUR OFFICE INDICATES THAT ONE JOE RICHARD, AN ILLITERATE WHO RECEIVED VETERANS ADMINISTRATION PENSION CHECKS THROUGH GENERAL DELIVERY IN MAMOU, LOUISIANA, MOVED FROM MAMOU TO BASILE, IN THE SAME COUNTY, ABOUT SEPTEMBER 1962. SUBSEQUENTLY RICHARD INQUIRED OF M. J. HESTER, THE POSTMASTER AT BASILE, REGARDING NONRECEIPT OF HIS VETERANS ADMINISTRATION PENSION CHECKS. UPON DISCOVERING THAT RICHARD HAD NOT FILED A FORWARDING ORDER WITH THE POSTMASTER AT MAMOU, HESTER ASSISTED RICHARD IN DOING SO IN NOVEMBER OR DECEMBER 1962.

ANOTHER JOE RICHARD, WHO LIVED AT 1104-6TH STREET IN MAMOU, RECEIVED $40 MONTHLY SOCIAL SECURITY CHECKS AT HIS RESIDENCE. UPON RECEIPT OF THE FORWARDING ORDER FROM THE JOE RICHARD WHO HAD MOVED TO BASILE, THE POSTMASTER AT MAMOU ERRONEOUSLY BEGAN FORWARDING TO BASILE THE SOCIAL SECURITY CHECKS ADDRESSED TO THE JOE RICHARD LIVING AT 1104-6TH STREET, MAMOU, LOUISIANA. ON JANUARY 4, 1963, THE JOE RICHARD AT BASILE PRESENTED TO M. J. HESTER ONE OF THE $40 SOCIAL SECURITY CHECKS ADDRESSED TO JOE RICHARD AT 1104-6TH STREET, MAMOU, LOUISIANA, AND HESTER CASHED IT. THE ERROR WAS SUBSEQUENTLY DISCOVERED AND THE $40 CHARGED TO HESTER'S ACCOUNT, SINCE THE JOE RICHARD WHO CASHED THE CHECK CANNOT REPAY THE AMOUNT THEREOF.

WE CANNOT CONCUR WITH THE VIEW EXPRESSED BY THE FINANCE OFFICER THAT THE LOSS HERE INVOLVED WAS NOT DUE TO FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF THE POSTMASTER AT BASILE, LOUISIANA. SINCE HESTER ASSISTED RICHARD TO FILE THE FORWARDING ORDER AT MAMOU, HE MUST HAVE KNOWN THAT RICHARD HAD RECEIVED MAIL AT GENERAL DELIVERY IN MAMOU. THE CHECK IN QUESTION BORE ON ITS FACE THE ADDRESS 1104-6TH STREET, MAMOU, LOUISIANA. SINCE MAMOU IS A SECOND CLASS OFFICE HAVING CITY DELIVERY SERVICE, A CHECK SO ADDRESSED IS NOT LIKELY TO BE RECEIVED THROUGH GENERAL DELIVERY AND THAT FACT SHOULD HAVE BEEN KNOWN BY HESTER. ALSO, IF HESTER KNEW RICHARD WELL ENOUGH TO CASH A CHECK FOR HIM WITHOUT REQUIRING FORMAL IDENTIFICATION, AS IS ALLEGED IN THE LETTER OF APRIL 17, 1964, HE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT HE RECEIVED VETERANS ADMINISTRATION CHECKS, WHEREAS THE CHECK PRESENTED COVERED SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS AND SO STATED ON ITS FACE. IF HE DID NOT KNOW HIM THAT WELL, HE WOULD APPEAR TO HAVE VIOLATED SECTION 441.211 OF THE POST OFFICE MANUAL, SINCE HE COULD NOT GUARANTEE THE ENDORSEMENT, AND HE OBVIOUSLY VIOLATED SECTION 441.212 SINCE HE CLEARLY DID NOT ,INSIST THAT THE PERSON PRESENTING THE CHECK IDENTIFY HIMSELF AS THE PERSON ENTITLED TO THE ECK.' IN THIS CONNECTION, THE REPORT OF POSTAL INSPECTOR B. A. BREWER, DATED DECEMBER 20, 1963, STATES THAT "HE (HESTER) DID NOT MAKE SUITABLE INQUIRY TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE CHECK ACTUALLY BELONGED TO THIS PARTICULAR JOE RICHARD, EVEN THOUGH THE STREET ADDRESS IN MAMOU WAS SHOWN ON THE CHECK. NEITHER DID HE PERSONALLY KNOW JOE RICHARD OR HIS BACKGROUND.' WHILE HESTER ALSO VIOLATED SECTION 171.332 BY NOT REQUIRING RICHARD TO SIGN AN "X" BEFORE A WITNESS, SUCH FAILURE DOES NOT SEEM MATERIAL TO THE QUESTION HERE PRESENTED SINCE COMPLIANCE THEREWITH WOULD NOT HAVE ASSISTED IN IDENTIFYING JOE RICHARD OR IN DETERMINING WHETHER HE WAS THE PROPER PAYEE OF THE CHECK.

IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE, IT IS OUR OPINION THAT HESTER WAS OR SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON NOTICE THAT RICHARD'S ENTITLEMENT TO THE CHECK WAS QUESTIONABLE. HIS FAILURE TO MAKE ANY INQUIRY INTO THE MATTER PRIOR TO CASHING THE CHECK, TOGETHER WITH HIS FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE POST OFFICE MANUAL, CONSTITUTE NEGLIGENCE AND LACK OF DUE CARE. HENCE, ON THE BASIS OF THE PRESENT RECORD WE CANNOT AGREE THAT THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT SHOULD ASSUME THE LOSS AND THE POSTMASTER AT BASILE, LOUISIANA, BE ALLOWED CREDIT IN THE AMOUNT OF $40 IN HIS ACCOUNT.

THE FILE IS RETURNED HEREWITH AND IT IS REQUESTED THAT THE MATTER BE GIVEN FURTHER CONSIDERATION BY YOUR DEPARTMENT WITH THE VIEW TO REQUIRING COLLECTION OF THE $40 INDEBTEDNESS FROM M. J. HESTER, POSTMASTER AT BASILE, LOUISIANA.