B-166514(1), B-168851, B-171073, AUG 31, 1971

B-166514(1),B-171073,B-168851: Aug 31, 1971

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BECAUSE IT NOW APPEARS THAT THE KEY-LOCKED INNER DOORS OF THE WALK-IN VAULT WOULD HAVE AFFORDED SUCH A NEGLIGIBLE AND INEFFECTIVE BARRIER HAD THEY BEEN PROPERLY SECURED. THE POSTMASTER WILL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE ONLY FOR THE LOSS OF THE AMOUNT WHICH COULD AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE BURGLAR -RESISTANT CHEST. POSTMASTER GENERAL: REFERENCE IS MADE TO THE LETTER OF FEBRUARY 25. BECAUSE THE BURGLAR-RESISTANT CHEST LOCATED WITHIN THE VAULT WAS UNLOCKED AND EMPTY AT THE TIME OF THE THEFT. THE PRESENT REQUEST SETS FORTH CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES IN REPUDIATION OF THESE ADMITTED FACTS UPON WHICH OUR PREVIOUS DECISION WAS BASED. IT IS STATED THAT THE BURGLAR-RESISTANT CHEST WAS NOT UTILIZED BECAUSE ITS LOCK HAD MALFUNCTIONED "SHORTLY" BEFORE THE BURGLARY.

B-166514(1), B-168851, B-171073, AUG 31, 1971

POSTMASTER'S DEFICIENCY - PARTIAL RELIEF DECISION GRANTING PARTIAL RELIEF TO MR. JUSTICE D. WOOD, POSTMASTER, WILLIAMSTOWN, KENTUCKY, INCIDENT TO A BURGLARY OF $11,645.58. BECAUSE IT NOW APPEARS THAT THE KEY-LOCKED INNER DOORS OF THE WALK-IN VAULT WOULD HAVE AFFORDED SUCH A NEGLIGIBLE AND INEFFECTIVE BARRIER HAD THEY BEEN PROPERLY SECURED, THE POSTMASTER WILL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE ONLY FOR THE LOSS OF THE AMOUNT WHICH COULD AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE BURGLAR -RESISTANT CHEST.

TO MR. POSTMASTER GENERAL:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO THE LETTER OF FEBRUARY 25, 1971, 9133-JW:DKP, FROM THE POSTAL DATA CENTER, ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, REQUESTING RECONSIDERATION OF THE LETTER OF NOVEMBER 13, 1970, FROM OUR CIVIL DIVISION, WHICH DENIED ITS PREVIOUS REQUEST THAT MR. JUSTICE D. WOOD, POSTMASTER, WILLIAMSTOWN, KENTUCKY, BE RELIEVED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF 31 U.S.C. 82A-1 OF A DEFICIENCY OF $11,645.58 IN HIS ACCOUNT RESULTING FROM A BURGLARY AT THE WILLIAMSTOWN POST OFFICE DURING THE WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 7-8, 1970.

THE NOVEMBER 13 LETTER OF OUR CIVIL DIVISION DENIED RELIEF TO MR. WOOD BECAUSE HE HAD FAILED TO LOCK THE INNER DOORS OF THE VAULT WHICH CONTAINED THE BURGLARIZED SAFE, AND BECAUSE THE BURGLAR-RESISTANT CHEST LOCATED WITHIN THE VAULT WAS UNLOCKED AND EMPTY AT THE TIME OF THE THEFT. THE PRESENT REQUEST SETS FORTH CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES IN REPUDIATION OF THESE ADMITTED FACTS UPON WHICH OUR PREVIOUS DECISION WAS BASED. IT IS STATED THAT THE BURGLAR-RESISTANT CHEST WAS NOT UTILIZED BECAUSE ITS LOCK HAD MALFUNCTIONED "SHORTLY" BEFORE THE BURGLARY, AND MR. WOOD HAD DECIDED TO AWAIT THE ARRIVAL OF PLANT MAINTENANCE PERSONNEL, DUE "IN A FEW DAYS," BEFORE SEEKING TO HAVE THE LOCK REPAIRED. IT IS FURTHER STATED THAT THE POSTMASTER'S STORING HIS STAMP STOCK IN A LOCKED SAFE WITHIN THE VAULT EXCEEDED REGULATORY SECURITY REQUIREMENTS, AND THAT USE OF THE BURGLAR- RESISTANT CHEST WAS NOT REQUIRED. FINALLY, THE OPINION IS EXPRESSED THAT, WHILE NO EXCUSE IS OFFERED FOR THE FAILURE TO LOCK THE INNER VAULT DOORS, SUCH FAILURE DID NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THE BURGLARY, AS THE BURGLARS COULD EASILY HAVE OPENED THESE DOORS IF THEY HAD BEEN LOCKED.

AS PREVIOUSLY STATED IN THE LETTER OF NOVEMBER 13, 1971, POSTAL REGULATIONS EXPRESSLY REQUIRE THAT BURGLAR-RESISTANT CHESTS BE UTILIZED TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT, THAT POSTAL STAMPS AND FUNDS BE GIVEN THE HIGHEST DEGREE OF PROTECTION, AND THAT ALL PROTECTIVE DOORS BE PROPERLY SECURED. FURTHERMORE, RESPONSIBLE POSTAL EMPLOYEES BEAR THE DUTY TO REPAIR ALL FAULTY PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE, REGARDLESS OF ANY INCONVENIENCE WHICH MAY BE INVOLVED. WHILE SECTION 442.221 OF THE POSTAL MANUAL NOW STATES THAT A MODERN WALK-IN VAULT CONSTITUTES MAXIMUM SECURITY, THERE IS NOTHING IN THE RECORD TO INDICATE THAT THE VAULT INVOLVED IN THIS CASE IS A MODERN WALK-IN VAULT. OLDER VAULTS APPEAR TO BE READILY ENTERED BY PROPERLY EQUIPPED BURGLARS. IN ANY EVENT, EVEN THOUGH CURRENT REGULATIONS MAY NOT REQUIRE THAT A POST OFFICE EQUIPPED WITH A MODERN WALK-IN VAULT MUST OBTAIN SAFES AND/OR BURGLAR-RESISTANT CHESTS FOR USE THEREIN, IT IS OUR VIEW THAT WHERE SUCH EQUIPMENT IS AVAILABLE FOR USE IN A VAULT, IT SHOULD BE USED. AS INDICATED ABOVE, THE REGULATIONS REQUIRE THAT STAMPS AND FUNDS BE GIVEN THE BEST POSSIBLE PROTECTION, AND IT SEEMS APPARENT THAT, WHERE AVAILABLE, A BURGLAR- RESISTANT CHEST INSIDE A WALK IN VAULT CONSTITUTES THE "BEST POSSIBLE PROTECTION." IT IS WELL ESTABLISHED THAT GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS CHARGED WITH RESPONSIBILITY OVER PUBLIC FUNDS MUST EXERCISE THE HIGHEST, RATHER THAN THE MINIMAL, DEGREE OF CARE OVER THOSE FUNDS.

POSTMASTER WOOD FAILED TO EXERCISE THE HIGHEST DEGREE OF CARE, AS SET FORTH IN EXISTING POSTAL REGULATIONS, WHEN HE FAILED TO UTILIZE THE AVAILABLE BURGLAR-RESISTANT CHEST. FURTHERMORE, ANY MALFUNCTION IN THE SECURITY EQUIPMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN REPAIRED BY THE MOST RAPID PRACTICABLE MEANS; THE RECORD DOES NOT INDICATE THAT THIS WAS ACCOMPLISHED BY THE DECISION TO WAIT FOR A "FEW DAYS" UNTIL ROUTINE REPAIR PROCEDURES BECAME AVAILABLE. HOWEVER, IT NOW APPEARS THAT THE KEY-LOCKED INNER DOORS OF THE WALK-IN VAULT, EVEN IF THEY HAD BEEN LOCKED, WOULD HAVE AFFORDED SUCH A NEGLIGIBLE AND INEFFECTIVE BARRIER TO BURGLARS WITH THE EQUIPMENT AND KNOW -HOW HERE INVOLVED, WHO HAD ALREADY BURNED OPEN THE FAR MORE RESISTANT OUTER VAULT DOORS, AS WELL AS HAVING CUT THROUGH A WIRE MESH SECURITY SCREEN AND BROKEN OPEN THREE SETS OF FIRE DOORS IN ORDER TO REACH THE VAULT, THAT THE FAILURE TO LOCK SUCH INNER DOORS, WHILE CONSTITUTING NEGLIGENCE, NEED NOT BE CONSIDERED THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF THE LOSS OR AS HAVING CONTRIBUTED MATERIALLY THERETO.

IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE, IT WILL BE NECESSARY FOR THE POSTAL SERVICE TO DETERMINE WHAT PORTION OF THE STOLEN ITEMS COULD HAVE BEEN PLACED IN THE BURGLAR-RESISTANT CHEST. UPON RECEIPT OF ADVICE THEREIN, RELIEF WILL BE GRANTED TO THE POSTMASTER FOR THE AMOUNT THAT COULD NOT BE PLACED IN SAID CHEST, WHICH HAD RECEIVED THE "BEST POSSIBLE PROTECTION," AND HE WILL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE ONLY FOR THE LOSS OF THE AMOUNT WHICH COULD AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE CHEST.

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