B-166514, OCT 31, 1972

B-166514: Oct 31, 1972

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WHERE IT IS NOT ESTABLISHED THAT A LOSS OCCURRED WITHOUT FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE ON THE EMPLOYEE'S PART. POSTMASTER GENERAL: REFERENCE IS MADE TO THE LETTER. FAULKNER WAS JUSTIFIED IN ASSUMING THAT THE POST OFFICE WAS EQUIPPED WITH A MODERN WALK-IN VAULT AND WAS WITHOUT NEGLIGENCE IN THE PROTECTION OF THE STAMP STOCK IN VIEW OF THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 651.351C OF THE OLD POSTAL MANUAL WHICH READS AS FOLLOWS: "(1) VAULTS PROVIDE GREATER SPACE AND BETTER PROTECTION THAN DO SAFES. THE NEW CLASS 5 SECURITY VAULT DOOR WILL BE PROVIDED FOR NEWLY CONSTRUCTED VAULTS OR AS REPLACEMENT FOR DEFECTIVE OR DAMAGED VAULT DOORS. INNER SEPARATIONS OF THE VAULT ARE ARRANGED BY USE OF WIRE SCREEN ENCLOSURES. "(2) FOR STORING CASH DRAWERS IN VAULTS.

B-166514, OCT 31, 1972

CIVILIAN EMPLOYEE - LOSS OF FUNDS - RELIEF FROM LIABILITY DECISION AFFIRMING THE DENIAL OF RELIEF TO EDGAR P. FAULKNER, FORMER POSTMASTER, TUCKER, GA., FOR A DEFICIENCY RESULTING FROM A BURGLARY AT THE TUCKER POST OFFICE. AN EMPLOYEE HAS THE RESPONSIBILITY TO EXERCISE THE HIGHEST CARE IN THE HANDLING OF PUBLIC MONEYS AND THIS OF NECCESSITY INCLUDES THE REQUIREMENT TO KNOW THE NATURE AND CAPABILITIES OF THE PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT PROVIDED FOR THE SAFEGUARDING OF THESE PUBLIC FUNDS. WHERE IT IS NOT ESTABLISHED THAT A LOSS OCCURRED WITHOUT FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE ON THE EMPLOYEE'S PART, NO RELIEF CAN BE GRANTED, 31 U.S.C. 82A-1.

TO MR. POSTMASTER GENERAL:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO THE LETTER, WITH ENCLOSURES, DATED AUGUST 25, 1972, FROM THE ASSISTANT POSTMASTER GENERAL, FINANCE DEPARTMENT, REQUESTING A RECONSIDERATION OF OUR DENIAL OF RELIEF TO EDGAR P. FAULKNER, FORMER POSTMASTER, TUCKER, GEORGIA, FOR A DEFICIENCY OF $31,590.68 RESULTING FROM A BURGLARY AT THE TUCKER POST OFFICE ON THE NIGHT OF JUNE 19, 1969.

THE LETTER STATES THAT THE VAULT DOOR IN THE TUCKER POST OFFICE HAD BEEN INSTALLED ONLY FIVE YEARS PRIOR TO THE BURGLARY AND THEREFORE MR. FAULKNER WAS JUSTIFIED IN ASSUMING THAT THE POST OFFICE WAS EQUIPPED WITH A MODERN WALK-IN VAULT AND WAS WITHOUT NEGLIGENCE IN THE PROTECTION OF THE STAMP STOCK IN VIEW OF THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 651.351C OF THE OLD POSTAL MANUAL WHICH READS AS FOLLOWS:

"(1) VAULTS PROVIDE GREATER SPACE AND BETTER PROTECTION THAN DO SAFES. THE NEW CLASS 5 SECURITY VAULT DOOR WILL BE PROVIDED FOR NEWLY CONSTRUCTED VAULTS OR AS REPLACEMENT FOR DEFECTIVE OR DAMAGED VAULT DOORS. INNER SEPARATIONS OF THE VAULT ARE ARRANGED BY USE OF WIRE SCREEN ENCLOSURES.

"(2) FOR STORING CASH DRAWERS IN VAULTS, ITEM NOS. 220 AND/OR 221 SHOULD BE USED INSTEAD OF A SAFE ITEM.

"(3) FOR STORING STAMPS IN VAULTS, ITEMS 222 AND/OR 223 IN STEEL SHELVING SHOULD BE USED INSTEAD OF A SAFE OR SECURITY CONTAINER."

THE LETTER THEN CONCLUDES THAT IN THE ABSENCE OF DEFINITE PROOF THAT THE SAFE WAS ACTUALLY ON "DAY LOCK" AT THE TIME OF THE BURGLARY, AND SINCE THE ABOVE REGULATION DOES NOT REQUIRE THE USE OF SAFES INSIDE VAULTS, THE CLAIM FOR RELIEF SHOULD BE GRANTED.

WE WOULD FIRST POINT OUT THAT NO POSITIVE OR AFFIRMATIVE EVIDENCE OF NEGLIGENCE IS NECESSARY. IN THE ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE OF FORCEABLE ENTRY TO THE SAFE, WE MUST ASSUME THAT THE POSTMASTER LEFT THE SAFE OPEN OR ON "DAY LOCK." WE NOTE THAT MR. FAULKNER CONCEDED THIS POSSIBILITY IN HIS AFFIDAVIT OF JUNE 26, 1969.

CONCERNING THE APPLICABILITY OF SECTION 651.351(C), WE WERE INFORMALLY ADVISED BY THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT AT THE TIME OF OUR ORIGINAL CONSIDERATION OF THIS MATTER THAT THE VAULT AT THE TUCKER POST OFFICE WAS A "MOSLEY" TYPE AND NOT OF THE KIND PROPERLY CLASSIFIED AS A "... NEW CLASS 5 SECURITY VAULT DOOR ..." IN THE ABOVE CITED REGULATION.

FURTHERMORE, REGARDLESS OF ANY CONFUSION ON MR. FAULKNER'S PART, HIS RESPONSIBILITY TO EXERCISE THE HIGHEST DEGREE OF CARE IN THE HANDLING OF PUBLIC MONEYS MUST OF NECESSITY INCLUDE KNOWLEDGE OF THE NATURE AND CAPABILITIES OF THE PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT PROVIDED FOR THE SAFEGUARDING OF THOSE PUBLIC FUNDS.

IN LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING, OUR DECISION OF JUNE 24, 1970, DENYING RELIEF MUST BE SUSTAINED, SINCE MR. FAULKNER HAS NOT ESTABLISHED THAT THE LOSS "OCCURRED WITHOUT FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE" ON HIS PART AS REQUIRED BY THE RELIEF STATUTE (31 U.S.C. 82A-1).

WE WOULD POINT OUT AGAIN, HOWEVER, THAT WHILE IT APPEARS THAT $18,770 OF THE MAIN STAMP STOCK COULD HAVE BEEN PLACED INTO THE BURGLAR RESISTANT CHEST, THERE HAS BEEN NO AGENCY DETERMINATION AS TO WHAT PORTION OF THE BALANCE OF THE MAIN STAMP STOCK COULD HAVE BEEN PLACED IN THE SAFE, OUTSIDE OF THE BURGLAR-RESISTANT CHEST. WHEN SUCH DETERMINATION IS MADE, AND WE ARE ADVISED THEREOF, CONSIDERATION WILL BE GIVEN TO THE REQUEST FOR RELIEF OF THE POSTMASTER FOR THAT PORTION OF THE LOSS WHICH COULD NOT BE STORED IN THE SAFE OR CHEST.