B-245519, Feb 18, 1992

B-245519: Feb 18, 1992

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The employee was notified that the training assignment had been canceled and the employee was instructed to return to his permanent duty station. The employee may be reimbursed his travel expenses for return to his permanent duty station only if the agency determines that he planned his personal travel in direct response to his training assignment and would not have traveled to the leave point and incurred the travel expense but for the approved training assignment by the agency. Reimbursement may not exceed the cost the agency would have incurred for direct travel to return from the training site. Modiano was notified that the training assignment had been canceled. He was to return to his official duty station.

B-245519, Feb 18, 1992

DIGEST: An employee scheduled travel and leave to immediately precede a previously scheduled training assignment. At the conclusion of the annual leave, the employee was notified that the training assignment had been canceled and the employee was instructed to return to his permanent duty station. The employee may be reimbursed his travel expenses for return to his permanent duty station only if the agency determines that he planned his personal travel in direct response to his training assignment and would not have traveled to the leave point and incurred the travel expense but for the approved training assignment by the agency. Reimbursement may not exceed the cost the agency would have incurred for direct travel to return from the training site.

Albert L. Modiano:

A decision has been requested as to whether Mr. Albert L. Modiano may be reimbursed his travel expenses for return to his official duty station from approved annual leave which he scheduled to immediately precede a previously scheduled training assignment. /1/ At the end of his annual leave, Mr. Modiano was notified that the training assignment had been canceled, and he was to return to his official duty station. He has claimed the travel expenses incurred in returning to his official duty station. For the reasons explained below, we hold that he may not be reimbursed based on the present record. However, if the agency determines that he had no control over the cancellation of the training assignment, that he planned his personal travel in response to his training assignment, and that he would not have made the trip and incurred the expense but for the training assignment, he may be reimbursed.

Mr. Modiano, Deputy Director of the Minerals Management Service, Department of the Interior (Interior), Washington, D.C., was scheduled to attend a 3-week senior managers executive training program in Boston, Massachusetts, beginning July 28, 1991. After receiving official approval to attend this program, Mr. Modiano received approval to take 2 weeks annual leave in Massachusetts for vacation purposes immediately prior to the training program. We understand that he traveled with his family to his vacation site in East Dennis, Massachusetts, by private automobile. The submission indicates that after completing his vacation and the 3 weeks of training, he was to return to Washington separately from his family.

At the completion of his annual leave period, Mr. Modiano was notified that his training was canceled and he was to return to his official duty station. Because his family was remaining at the vacation site, Mr. Modiano returned to Washington by air. For his return travel he purchased an airline ticket at a cost of $142 which he charged to the agency's travel credit card account. He has submitted a travel voucher covering the airfare and claiming ground transportation cost in the amount of $19. His airline ticket was for travel from Hyannis, Massachusetts, near his leave point, to Washington, D.C., and the claim for ground transportation was for travel to the airport in Hyannis and home from the airport in Washington. The agency recommends approval of the voucher on the basis that Mr. Modiano acted in good faith in traveling to his leave point in anticipation of attending the approved training course and it would be unreasonable to require him to assume the expense of complying with the recall order.

The general rule is that when an employee proceeds to a point away from his official duty station on annual leave, he assumes the obligation of returning at his own expense. See F.A. Calabrese, 56 Comp.Gen. 96 (1976). We have recognized an exception, however, in certain cases where an employee travels on approved annual leave to a leave point prior to but in anticipation of completing a previously scheduled temporary duty assignment, and the temporary duty is canceled after the employee travels to the leave point. In cases where cancellation of the temporary duty is beyond the employee's control and it can be determined that but for the temporary duty assignment the employee would not have scheduled the leave and traveled to the leave point, we have authorized reimbursement. See Arnaud J. Loustalot, B-122739, Feb. 10, 1977; 52 Comp.Gen. 841 (1973); and 30 Comp.Gen. 56 (1950). However, reimbursement is limited to the expense that the government would have incurred had the employee traveled from headquarters to the temporary duty station and returned by the usually traveled direct route. /2/ See 52 Comp.Gen. 841, supra, and decisions cited therein.

In the present case the administrative report states that Mr. Modiano acted in good faith in traveling in anticipation of attending the training. However, since Mr. Modiano did spend 2 weeks at his vacation site and his family remained there after he returned to Washington, it is not clear to us that he would not have traveled to Massachusetts for his vacation but for the training assignment. Therefore, based on the present record, reimbursement is not authorized. However, if upon further consideration the agency determines that Mr. Modiano would not have taken the annual leave and traveled to Massachusetts for his vacation but for the training assignment, his claim may be allowed to the extent that it does not exceed the cost the agency would have paid for direct travel from Boston to Washington incident to the assignment.

/1/ This decision was requested by Joseph T. Adams, Chief, Financial and Support Services Division, Minerals Management Service, Department of the Interior.

/2/ While Mr. Modiano's case involves training rather than temporary duty, if travel expenses are authorized incident to short term training, reimbursement is authorized under the temporary duty travel statutes and regulations. See 5 U.S.C. Sec. 4109(a)(2), and Michael G. Pond, 58 Comp.Gen. 253, 256-257 (1979).