B-240089.2, May 14, 1991

B-240089.2: May 14, 1991

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CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Residence transaction expenses - Reimbursement - Eligibility DIGEST: An employee whose claim for reimbursement of real estate sales expenses was denied in a prior decision of this Office. Sec. 3702(d) since the facts in this case show that the sale of the property was not related to the transfer and that the employee did not reasonably rely on the erroneous advice he received. Was authorized relocation allowances for his move from Houston. The IRS denied his claim since the residence sold was not located at his old duty station in Houston and was not the residence from which he commuted daily to and from work. Our basis was that real estate expenses may be reimbursed only when the residence sold is one from which the employee regularly commutes to work. /2/ We also denied waiver of the resulting debt and advised IRS that Mr.

B-240089.2, May 14, 1991

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Residence transaction expenses - Reimbursement - Eligibility DIGEST: An employee whose claim for reimbursement of real estate sales expenses was denied in a prior decision of this Office, John F. Conlon, B-240089, Nov. 19, 1990, requests that his claim be submitted to Congress as a meritorious claim under the principles outlined in John H. Teele, 65 Comp.Gen. 679 (1986), which involved erroneous advice and detrimental loss. We decline to submit the claim to Congress for consideration as a meritorious claim under 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3702(d) since the facts in this case show that the sale of the property was not related to the transfer and that the employee did not reasonably rely on the erroneous advice he received.

John F. Conlon:

This decision responds to a request from John F. Conlon that his claim for reimbursement of real estate expenses be submitted to Congress as a meritorious claim under the provisions of the Meritorious Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3702(d) (1988). /1/ We had denied his claim for reimbursement by decision John F. Conlon, B-240089, Nov. 19, 1990. We decline to submit the claim to Congress for the following reasons.

Mr. Conlon, an employee of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Southwest Region, was authorized relocation allowances for his move from Houston, Texas, to Dallas, Texas, in October 1987. Mr. Conlon filed a claim with IRS for reimbursement of closing costs in the amount of $6,982.36 on the sale of his residence in San Antonio, Texas. The IRS denied his claim since the residence sold was not located at his old duty station in Houston and was not the residence from which he commuted daily to and from work.

Mr. Conlon stated that IRS officials erroneously advised him that he would be reimbursed for the sale and that he relied on that advice when he sold his residence in San Antonio. However, we upheld the agency's determination to deny reimbursement in our decision John F. Conlon, B-240089, supra. Our basis was that real estate expenses may be reimbursed only when the residence sold is one from which the employee regularly commutes to work. /2/ We also denied waiver of the resulting debt and advised IRS that Mr. Conlon must refund his outstanding travel advance of $2,793.63.

In requesting congressional relief Mr. Conlon contends that he received erroneous advice when he received approval for use of a relocation services contract, and, although he did not use a relocation services contractor, he relied on the advice to his detriment. Mr. Conlon has furnished a copy of a memorandum which approved his use of a relocation services contract and it indicates that the residence to be sold was located in San Antonio, not at his official duty station in Houston, Texas. The approving official states that he was not aware of the discrepancy at the time he signed the form.

Mr. Conlon states that his circumstances are the same as those considered by this Office in John H. Teele, 65 Comp.Gen. 679 (1986), where, because of an agency's erroneous advice to a new appointee to a manpower shortage position, we referred the case to Congress for consideration as a meritorious claim under the provisions of 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3702(d) (1988).

This Office will exercise its authority to submit claims to the Congress under the Meritorious Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3702(d), only if the claim presents such substantial legal or equitable elements as to be deserving of consideration by the Congress. We have held that the requisite equitable elements may be presented by a claim based on erroneous advice or authorizations furnished by a government official, but only if the claimant demonstrates reasonable reliance on the advice or authorization. John H. Teele, 65 Comp.Gen. 679, supra.

We do not think the required detrimental reliance has been established in this case. Mr. Conlon accepted the position in Dallas because of its promotion potential. There is no evidence he moved because of advice given him concerning the extent to which the government would pay for his relocation. In fact, at the time of his transfer he occupied an apartment in Houston where he commuted daily to work and was not residing in the residence in San Antonio that he later sold. His household goods and personal effects were shipped by IRS from the Houston address to his new home of record. On the record, the sale of the San Antonio property had no relationship to the change of official station.

Accordingly, we do not believe it appropriate to submit his claim to Congress.

/1/ The claim was submitted on his behalf by Gretchen Paulig, Assistant Counsel, National Treasury Employees Union, Austin, Texas.

/2/ 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5724a(a)(4) (1988), and the Federal Travel Regulation, 41 C.F.R. Secs. 302-1.4(j), 302-6.1(b) and (d) (1990).