B-229390, Sep 14, 1988

B-229390: Sep 14, 1988

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Reimbursement of the expenses is denied. A summary of the employee's daily log shows that when the expenses were incurred there was only an indefinite proposal to transfer the employee. Any transfer was contingent on events which would not necessarily occur in the reasonably foreseeable future. Is not entitled to reimbursement of real estate selling expenses. /1/ BACKGROUND Mr. Johnson's claim is based on a summary of entries made in his daily journal concerning his proposed transfer from Moab. These summaries indicate that he was told by his supervisor in December 1983 that he was to be transferred from Moab to Salt Lake City. The time of the proposed transfer or the circumstances under which it would occur are not mentioned.

B-229390, Sep 14, 1988

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Residence transaction expenses - Reimbursement - Eligibility - Effective dates DIGEST: In the absence of evidence that the employing agency definitely intended to transfer the employee at the time he incurred real estate selling expenses, reimbursement of the expenses is denied. A summary of the employee's daily log shows that when the expenses were incurred there was only an indefinite proposal to transfer the employee. Any transfer was contingent on events which would not necessarily occur in the reasonably foreseeable future.

Benjamin M. Johnson:

We decide that Mr. Benjamin M. Johnson, an employee of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of the Interior, is not entitled to reimbursement of real estate selling expenses. /1/

BACKGROUND

Mr. Johnson's claim is based on a summary of entries made in his daily journal concerning his proposed transfer from Moab, Utah, to Salt Lake City, Utah. These summaries indicate that he was told by his supervisor in December 1983 that he was to be transferred from Moab to Salt Lake City, Utah, apparently because the Moab office would be closing. Numerous communications with his supervisors over a period extending to February 6, 1987, confirmed that he would be transferred to Salt Lake City. indicates that his supervisors encouraged him to sell his house in anticipation of his relocation to Salt Lake City; however, the time of the proposed transfer or the circumstances under which it would occur are not mentioned. They informed him that he could continue to work in Moab until his house was sold. He indicates that he listed his residence for sale on May 14, 1984, in reliance on his supervisors' statements; however, it could not be sold until much later because of a depressed market. October 9, 1985, he was informed that a decision had been made not to transfer him. On November 15, 1985, Mr. Johnson sold his house. states that he had to sell the house since he had accepted "earnest money" in connection with a possible sale and also that if he did not complete the sale he was subject to court action in connection with a divorce settlement with his former wife.

On February 6, 1987, Mr. Johnson received a memorandum stating that he was to be transferred to Denver effective in June 1987. He requested an extension of his reporting date and was eventually transferred there on September 9, 1987. Presumably, it is in connection with this transfer that he is claiming expenses for the sale of his residence in Moab.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration disallowed real estate expense on the grounds that the informal discussions in 1983 and 1984 concerned only possibilities of a transfer and there was no official paperwork to substantiate the Administration's intent to transfer Mr. Johnson before he incurred the real estate expenses.

DISCUSSION

Ordinarily an employee should not incur expenses for relocation until after he has received transfer orders. 54 Comp.Gen. 993 (1975). However, we have held that an employee may be reimbursed for moving and relocation expenses incurred prior to and in anticipation of a transfer of official duty station if "the travel order subsequently issued to the employee included authorization for the expenses on the basis of a previously existing administrative intention, clearly evident at the time the expenses were incurred by the employee, to transfer the employee's headquarters." 48 Comp.Gen. 395, 396 (1968). What constitutes a clear intention to transfer an employee depends on the circumstances in each case. 53 Comp.Gen. 836, 837 (1974). See also Joan C. Marci, B-188301, Aug 16, 1977.

An agency may propose a transfer without setting a date, with the transfer to take place only if and when certain events occur in the future. Because the proposed transfer is subject to contingencies, it is indefinite, and we cannot conclude that the proposal shows a clearly evident intention to transfer the employee. The resulting uncertainty of the transfer is a reason to deny reimbursement of relocation expenses incurred before a more definite notice of transfer. See 48 Comp.Gen. 395, at 396-397.

In the present case we do not find any clear linkage between the December 1983 discussions of a transfer to Salt Lake City, the sale of the residence on November 14, 1985, and the eventual transfer to Denver in September 1987. Since we have no evidence of the employing office's clearly expressed and definite intention to transfer Mr. Johnson when he incurred the expenses, reimbursement is denied.

/1/ Mr. Bert Bernard, Chief, Financial Services Section, Mine Safety and Health Administration, requested our decision.