B-64830, MAY 5, 1947, 26 COMP. GEN. 846

B-64830: May 5, 1947

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A PERSON WHO ASSUMES AND PROPERLY PERFORMS THE DUTIES OF SUCH POSTMASTER IS ENTITLED. AS FOLLOWS: WHERE A POSTMASTER AT A FOURTH-CLASS POST OFFICE WHO HAS NO ACCRUED ANNUAL OR SICK LEAVE TO HIS CREDIT SUBMITS HIS RESIGNATION TO THE DEPARTMENT AND IS NECESSARILY ABSENT FROM THE OFFICE FOR A PERIOD OF TIME WHILE SOME OTHER PERSON PERFORMS THE DUTIES OF POSTMASTER. " IN ORDER THAT HE MAY PAY THE PERSON PERFORMING THE DUTIES OF POSTMASTER DURING HIS ABSENCE OR MAY THE SALARY EARNED BE PAID DIRECTLY TO THE PERSON PERFORMING THE DUTIES OF POSTMASTER DURING THE INTERIM UNTIL AN ACTING POSTMASTER IS APPOINTED? HE WAS ON LEAVE WITHOUT PAY AND COULD NOT PROPERLY RECEIVE COMPENSATION. FOR APPROXIMATELY 30 YEARS IT HAS BEEN THE PRACTICE OF THE DEPARTMENT TO INFORM THE RESIGNING POSTMASTER THAT IF IMMEDIATE ABSENCE IS NECESSARY.

B-64830, MAY 5, 1947, 26 COMP. GEN. 846

COMPENSATION - POSTAL SERVICE - POSTMASTERS AT FOURTH-CLASS OFFICES - PERSONS ACTING IN LIEU OF PENDING INSTALLATION OF SUCCESSOR WHERE A POSTMASTER AT A FOURTH-CLASS POST OFFICE WITH NO ACCRUED ANNUAL OR SICK LEAVE TO HIS CREDIT SUBMITTED HIS RESIGNATION AND CEASED TO FUNCTION AS POSTMASTER, THEREBY CREATING A VACANCY IN THE OFFICE UNTIL THE INSTALLATION OF A SUCCESSOR, A PERSON WHO ASSUMES AND PROPERLY PERFORMS THE DUTIES OF SUCH POSTMASTER IS ENTITLED, UNDER THE PROVISIONS IN 39 U.S.C. 39, TO BE PAID THE COMPENSATION OF A POSTMASTER FOR THE PERIOD OF SUCH SERVICE FROM THE APPROPRIATION " COMPENSATION TO POSTMASTERS"--- THE OFFICE TO BE CONDUCTED UNDER THE FORMER POSTMASTER'S BOND AND IN HIS NAME DURING SUCH PERIOD.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL WARREN TO THE POSTMASTER GENERAL, MAY 5, 1947:

THERE HAS BEEN CONSIDERED YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 21, 1947, REFERENCE 15, AS FOLLOWS:

WHERE A POSTMASTER AT A FOURTH-CLASS POST OFFICE WHO HAS NO ACCRUED ANNUAL OR SICK LEAVE TO HIS CREDIT SUBMITS HIS RESIGNATION TO THE DEPARTMENT AND IS NECESSARILY ABSENT FROM THE OFFICE FOR A PERIOD OF TIME WHILE SOME OTHER PERSON PERFORMS THE DUTIES OF POSTMASTER, MAY THE POSTMASTER DURING HIS ABSENCE RECEIVE COMPENSATION FROM THE APPROPRIATION, " COMPENSATION TO POSTMASTERS," IN ORDER THAT HE MAY PAY THE PERSON PERFORMING THE DUTIES OF POSTMASTER DURING HIS ABSENCE OR MAY THE SALARY EARNED BE PAID DIRECTLY TO THE PERSON PERFORMING THE DUTIES OF POSTMASTER DURING THE INTERIM UNTIL AN ACTING POSTMASTER IS APPOINTED?

THIS QUESTION HAS ARISEN BECAUSE OF THE FACT THAT THE POSTAL ACCOUNTS DIVISION OF YOUR OFFICE HAS RECENTLY DISALLOWED THE COMPENSATION OF FOURTH -CLASS POSTMASTERS IN SUCH CASES FROM THE DATE OF THEIR RESIGNATION, GIVING THE REASON THEREFOR THAT SINCE THE POSTMASTER DID NOT PERFORM THE DUTIES OF THE OFFICE AND HAD NO LEAVE TO HIS CREDIT, HE WAS ON LEAVE WITHOUT PAY AND COULD NOT PROPERLY RECEIVE COMPENSATION.

FOR APPROXIMATELY 30 YEARS IT HAS BEEN THE PRACTICE OF THE DEPARTMENT TO INFORM THE RESIGNING POSTMASTER THAT IF IMMEDIATE ABSENCE IS NECESSARY, HE MAY LEAVE THE OFFICE IN CHARGE OF A COMPETENT PERSON WHO HAS TAKEN THE OFFICIAL OATH OF OFFICE, THE OFFICE TO BE CONDUCTED UNDER THE POSTMASTER'S BOND AND IN HIS NAME. UNDER THIS PROCEDURE THE POSTMASTER OF RECORD CLAIMS THE COMPENSATION UNTIL AN ACTING POSTMASTER IS INSTALLED AND REIMBURSES FROM HIS COMPENSATION AS POSTMASTER THE PERSON PERFORMING THE DUTIES IN THE INTERIM. THUS THE FINANCIAL INTERESTS OF THE GOVERNMENT ARE PROTECTED AND DUE SERVICE RENDERED THE PATRONS.

IN THE MAJORITY OF CASES CONSIDERABLE TIME ELAPSES BETWEEN THE DATE THE RESIGNATION OF A POSTMASTER IS TENDERED AND THE DATE IT IS OFFICIALLY ACCEPTED; THAT IS, THE DATE A DULY APPOINTED ACTING POSTMASTER IS INSTALLED. THIS IS DUE TO THE FACT THAT CONSIDERABLE TIME IS REQUIRED TO PROCURE AN ACTING POSTMASTER WHO MEETS ALL THE REQUIREMENTS AS TO AGE, RESIDENCE, ABILITY TO FURNISH BOND, ETC., ESPECIALLY IN THE WESTERN STATES AND IN ALASKA. FOR EXAMPLE, MRS. PEARL M. SPEAR, ACTING POSTMASTER AT THE FOURTH-CLASS POST OFFICE AT CLEMENCEAU, ARIZONA, SUBMITTED HER RESIGNATION TO THE DEPARTMENT UNDER DATE OF MAY 18, 1945, BUT PERFORMED HER OFFICIAL DUTIES UNTIL MAY 21, 1945. AT THAT TIME MRS. SPEAR PLACED MRS. LUTI S. THOMAS IN CHARGE TO OPERATE THE OFFICE UNDER THE ACTING POSTMASTER'S BOND AND IN HER NAME. MRS. THOMAS PERFORMED THE DUTIES OF POSTMASTER FROM MAY 21 UNTIL THE CLOSE OF BUSINESS JULY 31, 1945, AT WHICH TIME SHE WAS INSTALLED AS ACTING POSTMASTER AND ASSUMED CHARGE OF THE OFFICE. IN THIS CASE THE POSTAL ACCOUNTS DIVISION OF YOUR OFFICE DISALLOWED THE COMPENSATION OF THE ACTING POSTMASTER FROM MAY 21 THROUGH JULY 31, 1945.

UNLESS WE CAN PAY THE POSTMASTER WHILE HE IS AWAY OR PAY THE PERSON OPERATING THE OFFICE DURING THE INTERIM, IT WILL BE NECESSARY IN SUCH CASES TO CLOSE EACH FOURTH-CLASS OFFICE DURING THE ABSENCE OF THE POSTMASTER UNLESS IT IS POSSIBLE TO OBTAIN SOME PERSON TO PERFORM THE SERVICES WITHOUT PAY, WHICH IS IMPROBABLE.

SECTION 39, TITLE 39, U.S. CODE, PROVIDES:

WHENEVER THE OFFICE OF A POSTMASTER BECOMES VACANT THROUGH DEATH, RESIGNATION, OR REMOVAL, THE POSTMASTER GENERAL SHALL DESIGNATE SOME PERSON TO ACT AS POSTMASTER UNTIL A REGULAR APPOINTMENT CAN BE MADE BY THE PRESIDENT IN CASE THE OFFICE IS IN THE FIRST, SECOND, OR THIRD CLASS, AND BY THE POSTMASTER GENERAL WHEN THE OFFICE IS IN THE FOURTH CLASS; AND THE POSTMASTER GENERAL SHALL NOTIFY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE OF THE CHANGE. * * * A PERSON WHO, UPON THE OCCURRENCE OF A VACANCY AND PENDING THE APPOINTMENT OF A POSTMASTER OR THE DESIGNATION OF AN ACTING POSTMASTER, ASSUMES AND PROPERLY PERFORMS THE DUTIES OF POSTMASTER AT ANY THIRD- OR FOURTH-CLASS POST OFFICE SHALL BE ALLOWED THE COMPENSATION AS POSTMASTER FOR THE PERIOD OF SUCH SERVICE * * *.

UNDER THE HEADING " OFFICE OF THE FIRST ASSISTANT POSTMASTER GENERAL" IN THE TREASURY AND POST OFFICE DEPARTMENTS APPROPRIATION ACT, 1947, APPROVED JULY 20, 1946, 60 STAT. 481, IT IS PROVIDED AS FOLLOWS:

COMPENSATION TO POSTMASTERS: FOR COMPENSATION TO POSTMASTERS, INCLUDING COMPENSATION AS POSTMASTER TO PERSONS WHO, PENDING THE DESIGNATION OF AN ACTING POSTMASTER, ASSUME AND PROPERLY PERFORM THE DUTIES OF POSTMASTER IN THE EVENT OF A VACANCY IN THE OFFICE OF POSTMASTER OF THE THIRD OR FOURTH CLASS * * *.

A SIMILAR PROVISION HAS APPEARED IN THE ANNUAL APPROPRIATION ACTS FOR THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT BEGINNING WITH THE FISCAL YEAR 1936.

IN A SITUATION SUCH AS DESCRIBED IN YOUR LETTER, THAT IS, WHERE THE POSTMASTER CEASES TO FUNCTION AS SUCH AND HAS NO ANNUAL OR SICK LEAVE TO HIS CREDIT, WHILE THE ABSENTING POSTMASTER AND HIS SURETIES CONTINUE RESPONSIBLE UNDER THEIR BOND UNTIL HIS SUCCESSOR HAS BEEN APPOINTED AND QUALIFIED (39 U.S.C. 38), THERE IS FOR ALL PRACTICAL PURPOSES A VACANCY IN THE POST OFFICE FROM THE DATE HE ABSENTS HIMSELF THEREFROM UNTIL THE INSTALLATION OF HIS SUCCESSOR. AND, IF A COMPETENT PERSON ASSUMES AND PROPERLY PERFORMS THE DUTIES OF POSTMASTER AT SUCH OFFICE, SUCH PERSON- - UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 39, TITLE 39, U.S. CODE, SUPRA--- IS ENTITLED TO BE PAID THE COMPENSATION OF A POSTMASTER FOR THE PERIOD OF SUCH SERVICE, PAYABLE FROM THE APPROPRIATION " COMPENSATION TO POSTMASTERS.' SINCE THE PERSON PERFORMING THE DUTIES AS POSTMASTER MAY NOT NECESSARILY BE APPOINTED ACTING POSTMASTER, THE OFFICE SHOULD BE CONDUCTED UNDER THE POSTMASTER'S BOND AND IN HIS NAME, AS APPEARS TO BE THE PRESENT PRACTICE.

WITH RESPECT TO THE CASE OF MRS. PEARL M. SPEAR, FORMER ACTING POSTMASTER AT THE FOURTH-CLASS POST OFFICE AT CLEMENCEAU, ARIZ., REFERRED TO IN THE NEXT TO THE LAST PARAGRAPH IN YOUR LETTER, THE CHIEF, POSTAL ACCOUNTS DIVISION, GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, HAS ADVISED THAT THE CHARGE OF $257.13 FOR COMPENSATION FOR THE PERIOD MAY 21 TO JULY 31, 1945, HAS BEEN REMOVED.