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ETC. - WITHOUT NEGLIGENCE OR FAULT RELIEF FROM LIABILITY FOR AN UNEXPLAINED LOSS OF FUNDS BEING HELD AS EVIDENCE IN A CRIMINAL TRIAL IS GRANTED UNDER 31 U.S.C. 3527 (1982) TO TWO DEPUTY COURTROOM CLERKS WHOSE NEGLIGENCE WAS SUPERSEDED BY SUCH PERVASIVE LAXITY IN THE POLICIES. ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS - RELIEF - NEGLIGENCE - WHAT CONSTITUTES RELIEF FROM LIABILITY FOR AN UNEXPLAINED LOSS OF FUNDS BEING HELD AS EVIDENCE IN A CRIMINAL TRIAL IS DENIED UNDER 31 U.S.C. 3527 (1982) TO THE CLERK OF A UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WHO PROVIDED FACILITIES AND ESTABLISHED POLICIES THAT WERE GROSSLY INADEQUATE TO PROTECT FUNDS ENTRUSTED TO THE CLERK THROUGH HIS SUBORDINATES. 1984: THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO YOUR REQUEST OF MARCH 2.

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B-214561, JULY 20, 1984, 63 COMP.GEN. 489

ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS - PHYSICAL LOSSES, ETC. OF FUNDS, VOUCHERS, ETC. - WITHOUT NEGLIGENCE OR FAULT RELIEF FROM LIABILITY FOR AN UNEXPLAINED LOSS OF FUNDS BEING HELD AS EVIDENCE IN A CRIMINAL TRIAL IS GRANTED UNDER 31 U.S.C. 3527 (1982) TO TWO DEPUTY COURTROOM CLERKS WHOSE NEGLIGENCE WAS SUPERSEDED BY SUCH PERVASIVE LAXITY IN THE POLICIES, PROCEDURES, AND FACILITIES ESTABLISHED BY THEIR SUPERIOR THAT IT WOULD BE UNREASONABLE TO REQUIRE THEM TO PROTEST TO THEIR SUPERIOR ABOUT THOSE DEFICIENCIES. ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS - RELIEF - NEGLIGENCE - WHAT CONSTITUTES RELIEF FROM LIABILITY FOR AN UNEXPLAINED LOSS OF FUNDS BEING HELD AS EVIDENCE IN A CRIMINAL TRIAL IS DENIED UNDER 31 U.S.C. 3527 (1982) TO THE CLERK OF A UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WHO PROVIDED FACILITIES AND ESTABLISHED POLICIES THAT WERE GROSSLY INADEQUATE TO PROTECT FUNDS ENTRUSTED TO THE CLERK THROUGH HIS SUBORDINATES.

TO THE DIRECTOR, ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES COURTS, JULY 20, 1984:

THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO YOUR REQUEST OF MARCH 2, 1984, THAT THIS OFFICE GRANT RELIEF PURSUANT TO 31 U.S.C. 3527 (1982) TO MR. FREDERICK DECESARIS, MS. CEDRA COPPOLA, AND MS. CONCETTA ZINNI. YOUR REQUEST ARISES AS A RESULT OF THE UNEXPLAINED LOSS OF $4,301 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY THAT WAS BEING HELD AS EVIDENCE IN TWO CRIMINAL TRIALS PENDING BEFORE THE UNITED STATES COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND. FOR THE REASONS STATED BELOW, WE GRANT RELIEF TO MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI, BUT WE DENY RELIEF TO MR. DECESARIS.

FACTS

ON OCTOBER 22, 1981, IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT A TOTAL OF $4,301 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY WAS MISSING FROM AN EVIDENCE "CAGE" USED BY THE CLERK OF THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND. THOSE FUNDS WERE BEING KEPT AS PHYSICAL EVIDENCE IN TWO MATTERS THEN PENDING BEFORE THE COURT. THE LOSS WAS INITIALLY DISCOVERED BY COURTROOM DEPUTY CLERK CEDRA COPPOLA. ACCORDING TO MS. COPPOLA, ON JULY 17, 1980, SHE RECEIVED $300 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY WHILE SERVING AS COURTROOM DEPUTY CLERK IN A TRIAL IN WHICH THE CURRENCY WAS PHYSICAL EVIDENCE. MS. COPPOLA STATES THAT SHE "PLACED THE $300 FROM THAT TRIAL INTO (THE EVIDENCE CAGE THAT SHE SHARED WITH ANOTHER COURTROOM DEPUTY CLERK, MS. CONCETTA ZINNI) IN A BROWN ENVELOPE WITH THE WORD 'CURRENCY' WRITTEN ON THE FRONT OF THE ENVELOPE."

ON OCTOBER 22, 1981, MS. COPPOLA DISCOVERED THE $300 AND ITS ENVELOPE WERE MISSING FROM THE CAGE. WHEN MS. COPPOLA INFORMED MS. ZINNI OF THE LOSS, MS. ZINNI BECAME CONCERNED FOR THE SAFETY OF SOME FUNDS THAT HAD BEEN ENTRUSTED TO HER IN ANOTHER CASE. ON JULY 16, 1981, MS. ZINNI HAD RECEIVED $4,001 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY AS EVIDENCE WHILE ACTING AS COURTROOM DEPUTY CLERK IN A TRIAL. MS. ZINNI STATES THAT SHE "PLACED THE $4,001 IN A CLEAR PLASTIC EXHIBIT ENVELOPE AT THE BOTTOM FRONT LEFT CORNER OF CAGE NO. 4 (THE CAGE ASSIGNED TO HER AND MS. COPPOLA)." MS. ZINNI LAST RECALLS SEEING THIS MONEY IN THE CAGE ON OCTOBER 8, 1981. ON OCTOBER 22, 1981, AFTER LEARNING OF THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE $300 ENTRUSTED TO MS. COPPOLA, MS. ZINNI DISCOVERED THAT $4,001 ENTRUSTED TO HER WAS ALSO MISSING. MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI THEN INFORMED THEIR SUPERIOR, THE CLERK OF THE COURT, MR. FREDERICK R. DECESARIS, AND OTHERS OF THE LOSS. CHECK OF THE EVIDENCE LOGS MAINTAINED IN THAT OFFICE CONFIRMED THAT THE LOST CURRENCY HAD BEEN COMMITTED TO THE CARE OF MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI, RESPECTIVELY. AN INVESTIGATION BY THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI) REACHED NO CONCLUSIVE RESULTS AND, WE UNDERSTAND, HAS BEEN CLOSED.

IN THE MEANTIME, MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI WERE SERVED WITH DEMANDS FOR REPAYMENT OF THE MISSING $4,301. THE DEMANDS INDICATED THAT CONSIDERATION WAS BEING GIVEN TO COLLECTING THE DEBT BY MEANS OF SALARY OFFSET. RESPONSE TO THOSE DEMANDS, MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI REQUESTED HEARINGS ON THE ISSUE OF THEIR LIABILITY FOR THIS LOSS. THEIR REQUEST IS FOUNDED UPON 5 U.S.C. 5514, AS AMENDED BY SECTION 5 OF THE DEBT COLLECTION ACT OF 1982, PUB. L. NO. 97-365, 96 STAT. 1749, 1751-52. /1/ SUBSEQUENT TO THEIR REQUEST, YOU WROTE US TO REQUEST RELIEF UNDER 31 U.S.C. 3527 FOR MS. COPPOLA, MS. ZINNI AND MR. DECESARIS. WE UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR AGENCY HAS POSTPONED ACTION ON THE REQUESTED HEARING IN ORDER TO AWAIT OUR RESPONSE TO YOUR REQUEST.

AGENCY SECURITY PROCEDURES

ACCORDING TO THE RECORD THAT YOU SUBMITTED, MR. DECESARIS, AS CLERK OF THE COURT, IS RESPONSIBLE, AMONG OTHER THINGS, FOR MAINTAINING PHYSICAL EVIDENCE THAT IS TURNED OVER TO THE COURT ON LEGAL MATTERS PENDING THERE. MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI ARE TWO OF THE "COURTROOM DEPUTY CLERKS" WHO PERFORM THIS TASK UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF MR. DECESARIS. ACCORDING TO AN AFFIDAVIT SUBMITTED BY MR. DECESARIS, IN NOVEMBER 1979, HE HAD INSTALLED SIX STEEL CAGES FOR THE DEPUTY COURTROOM CLERKS TO USE IN STORING EVIDENCE. THE CAGES WERE PLACED IN A WALK-IN VAULT EQUIPPED WITH A COMBINATION LOCK AND A KEY-CONTROLLED ALARM. THE VAULT IS ALSO EQUIPPED WITH AN INSIDE DOOR WITH A SEPARATE COMBINATION LOCK. BEYOND THE INNER DOOR OF THE VAULT IS YET ANOTHER KEY-CONTROLLED ALARM SYSTEM. MR. DECESARIS DESCRIBES THIS SYSTEM AS A "SOUND AND MOVEMENT" DEVICE WHICH IS DIRECTLY WIRED TO FEDERAL POLICE OFFICES.

ACCORDING TO THE RECORD, AT THE TIME OF THE LOSS, THE WALLS AND DOORS OF THE CAGES WERE CONSTRUCTED OF A WIRE MESH DESCRIBED AS "CHICKEN WIRE" OR "CHAIN LINK." THIS CONSTRUCTION ALLOWED ONE TO SEE THE CONTENTS OF EACH OF THE CAGES WITHOUT OPENING THEIR DOORS. THE CAGES WERE ARRANGED IN TWO ROWS OF THREE, ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER. EACH CAGE WAS EQUIPPED WITH A COMBINATION LOCK. ACCORDING TO MR. DECESARIS, THE COMBINATIONS OF THE CAGES WERE TO BE KNOWN ONLY BY THE TWO DEPUTY CLERKS ASSIGNED TO EACH CAGE. HE ALSO STATES THAT EACH CLERK WAS WARNED TO KEEP THE CAGE COMBINATIONS SECRET, SHOWN HOW TO CHANGE THE COMBINATIONS, AND INSTRUCTED TO CHANGE THEM EVERY 6 MONTHS OR SOONER WHEN SECURITY NEEDS WARRANT IT. THESE SECURITY PROCEDURES WERE APPARENTLY NOT COMMITTED TO WRITING AND THERE IS CONFLICT IN THE RECORD AS TO WHETHER INSTRUCTIONS CONCERNING SAFEGUARDING AND CHANGING COMBINATIONS WERE ACTUALLY GIVEN.

ACCORDING TO THE RECORD, THE COMBINATIONS TO BOTH OF THE VAULT LOCKS AND THE CAGE ASSIGNED TO MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI HAD BEEN WIDELY KNOWN FOR SEVERAL YEARS. APPARENTLY, THE COMBINATION TO THEIR CAGE WAS THE SAME ONE USED BY THE TWO DEPUTY COURTROOM CLERKS PREVIOUSLY ASSIGNED TO THAT CAGE AND THE RECORD SUGGESTS THAT MANY STAFF MEMBERS KNEW THE COMBINATION TO THAT CAGE. BOTH OF THOSE DEPUTY COURTROOM CLERKS HAD BECOME PREGNANT IN 1979 AND THERE WAS SOME SPECULATION BETWEEN THEM AND THE OTHER STAFF MEMBERS ON WHETHER THEIR CHILDREN WOULD BE BORN DURING THE MONTH WHICH CORRESPONDED TO THE NUMBERS OF THEIR CAGE'S COMBINATION, WHICH WAS "0480." IN ADDITION, MS. ZINNI TOLD FBI INVESTIGATORS THAT SHE KEPT THE COMBINATION TO THEIR CAGE ON A PIECE OF PAPER IN HER DESK. THE RECORD DOES NOT INDICATE THAT HER DESK WAS LOCKED.

THE COMBINATIONS TO THE VAULT DOORS WERE KNOWN TO SEVERAL OF THE DEPUTY COURTROOM CLERKS AND SOME OTHER COURTROOM EMPLOYEES BECAUSE OF THE NEED FOR SOMEONE TO ALWAYS BE AVAILABLE TO OPEN THE VAULT. DURING THE DAY, THE ALARMS WERE DISCONNECTED AND THE VAULT DOORS WERE LEFT UNLOCKED AND OPEN IN ORDER TO FACILITATE ACCESS TO THE CAGES BY THE DEPUTY COURTROOM CLERKS. THESE POLICIES LEFT THE VAULT AND CAGES VULNERABLE TO UNSUPERVISED VISITS BY OTHER COURT EMPLOYEES, BUILDING JANITORS, PROBATION OFFICERS, REPAIR PERSONS, REPORTERS FOR THE LOCAL NEWSMEDIA, AND MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC, ALL OF WHOM WERE ROUTINELY GIVEN ACCESS TO THE CLERK'S OFFICE, OWING TO THE PUBLIC NATURE OF THE RECORDS STORED THERE. (THE RECORD INDICATES THAT THE KEYS TO THE VAULT ALARM SYSTEMS WERE KEPT EITHER ON OR IN AN UNLOCKED DESK DURING THE DAYTIME.) AT NIGHT, THE ALARM KEYS WERE STORED IN AN UNLOCKED TABLE DRAWER IN MR. DECESARIS' OFFICE.

THE RECORD INDICATES THAT THERE WERE LARGE GAPS BETWEEN THE DOORS TO THE CAGES, AND THE CEILINGS AND FLOORS OF THE CAGES. THESE GAPS WERE APPARENTLY WIDE ENOUGH TO PERMIT A PERSON TO REMOVE OBJECTS FROM THE CAGES WITHOUT UNLOCKING THE DOORS. THE RECORD CONTAINS SEVERAL ACCOUNTS OF SUCCESSFUL EFFORTS TO DO THIS. IN ONE SUCH ACCOUNT, IT IS STATED BY AN EMPLOYEE OF THE COURT THAT, IN A PRESENCE OF ANOTHER EMPLOYEE, HE SUCCESSFULLY EXTRACTED AN ENVELOPE WITH ITS CONTENTS AND THEN RETURNED IT, BY MEANS OF THE GAP BETWEEN THE DOOR AND THE FLOOR OF THE CAGE ASSIGNED TO MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI. NEXT, ACCORDING TO THAT INDIVIDUAL'S STATEMENT, HE "ATTEMPTED TO RETRIEVE A PISTOL FROM THAT CAGE * * * WHICH WAS IN ANOTHER ENVELOPE AND LAYING TO THE BACK OF THE CAGE. BUT, BECAUSE THAT PISTOL WAS OUTSIDE MY REACH, I COULD NOT DO SO." ANOTHER DEPUTY COURTROOM CLERK RECALLED THAT ON ONE OCCASION HE COULD NOT OPEN THE COMBINATION LOCK ON HIS CAGE AND "BECOMING IMPATIENT, I SLIPPED AN EVIDENCE ENVELOPE, WITH CERTAIN CONTENTS, THROUGH (THE GAP IN MY CAGE) WITHOUT OPENING THE DOOR * * * . I AM SURE THAT I HAVE DONE THIS ON OTHER OCCASIONS, SPECIFICS OF WHICH I CANNOT RECALL." ACCORDING TO THE RECORD, PLYWOOD WALLS HAVE BEEN PLACED ON ALL OF THE CAGES AND THEIR DOORS, AND THE GAPS ALONG THE DOORS HAVE BEEN ELIMINATED SINCE THE LOSS.

DISCUSSION

GAO IS AUTHORIZED BY 31 U.S.C. 3527 TO RELIEVE AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER FROM LIABILITY FOR A PHYSICAL LOSS OF FUNDS IF GAO CONCURS WITH ADMINISTRATIVE DETERMINATIONS MADE BY THE REQUESTING AGENCY TO THE EFFECT THAT THE LOSS OCCURRED WHILE THE ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER WAS ACTING IN THE DISCHARGE OF OFFICIAL DUTIES, AND THAT THE LOSS OCCURRED WITHOUT FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF THE ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER. IN YOUR LETTER, YOU ADVISED US THAT YOU HAVE MADE BOTH DETERMINATIONS.

ORDINARILY, THE LOSS OF FUNDS ENTRUSTED TO AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER RAISES A REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION OF NEGLIGENCE ON THE OFFICER'S PART. COMP.GEN. 112, 115 (1975); B-203646, NOVEMBER 30, 1981. IN THE PAST WE HAVE HELD UPON OCCASION THAT THE PRESUMPTION IS ADEQUATELY REBUTTED BY EVIDENCE INDICATING THE EXISTENCE OF A "PERVASIVE LAXITY" IN THE APPLICABLE SECURITY PROCEDURES WHICH WAS THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF THE LOSS INCURRED. /2/

AT THE SAME TIME, HOWEVER, GAO HAS ALSO HELD THAT AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER HAS A DUTY TO REPORT SECURITY WEAKNESSES TO APPROPRIATE SUPERVISORY PERSONNEL AND, WITH REGARD TO THOSE INADEQUATE SECURITY CONDITIONS THAT ARE BEYOND THE OFFICER'S CONTROL, A DUTY TO MAKE THE BEST OUT OF WHAT IS AVAILABLE TO HIM OR HER. THE DETERMINATION OF WHETHER TO GRANT OR DENY RELIEF HAS OFTEN TURNED ON WHETHER THESE DUTIES WERE BREACHED. /3/

CONCLUSIONS

WE CONCLUDE THAT THE SECURITY POLICIES AND PROCEDURES EXERCISED IN THE CLERK'S OFFICE WERE SERIOUSLY DEFICIENT. TWO DEPUTY COURTROOM CLERKS HAD BEEN ASSIGNED TO WORK OUT OF ONE CAGE. THIS DENIED EITHER OF THEM EXCLUSIVE CONTROL OVER THE ITEMS (INCLUDING THE LOST FUNDS) THAT WERE ENTRUSTED TO THEM. ALSO, THE FACTS DISCUSSED ABOVE DEMONSTRATE THAT ACCESS TO THE VAULT CONTAINING THE CAGES WAS NOT ADEQUATELY CONTROLLED.

SECOND, MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI APPARENTLY FAILED TO MAKE ANY ATTEMPT TO PROTEST THE DEFICIENCIES IN THE OFFICE'S POLICY, PROCEDURES, AND FACILITIES TO THEIR SUPERIORS. AS ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS THEY ARE HELD, IN THE ABSENCE OF REGULATIONS, TO THE STANDARD OF WHAT THE REASONABLY PRUDENT AND CAREFUL PERSON WOULD HAVE DONE TO TAKE CARE OF HIS OR HER OWN PROPERTY OF LIKE DESCRIPTION UNDER LIKE CIRCUMSTANCES. 54 COMP.GEN. 112 (1974); B-193673, MAY 25, 1979. IT MIGHT BE ARGUED THAT, IN FAILING TO REALIZE AND REPORT TO THEIR SUPERIORS THE DEFICIENCIES IN THE SECURITY SYSTEM OF THE CLERK'S OFFICE, MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI FAILED TO BEHAVE AS REASONABLY PRUDENT AND CAREFUL PERSONS AND BREACHED THEIR DUTIES AS ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS. B-127204, APRIL 13, 1956; B-208511, MAY 19, 1983.

HOWEVER, WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE LAW REQUIRES AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER TO PERFORM A USELESS ACT. THE DEFICIENCIES IN THE POLICIES, PROCEDURES, FACILITIES, AND PRACTICES OF THE CLERK'S OFFICE WERE OBVIOUS AND UNDOUBTEDLY KNOWN (OR SHOULD HAVE BEEN KNOWN) TO MR. DECESARIS. MANY OF THE MOST SERIOUS FLAWS WERE INHERENT IN THE POLICIES, PROCEDURES, AND FACILITIES DESIGNED AND ESTABLISHED BY HIM. THE BALANCE OF THOSE DEFICIENCIES APPARENTLY RESULTED FROM INADEQUATE SUPERVISION OF HIS SUBORDINATES AND LAX ENFORCEMENT OF THOSE PROCEDURES WHICH MR. DECESARIS MAINTAINS HE DID ESTABLISH. TO REQUIRE MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI TO HAVE PROTESTED THESE FLAWS TO MR. DECESARIS WOULD HAVE BEEN A USELESS ACT. MR. DECESARIS CLEARLY KNEW OR SHOULD HAVE KNOWN OF THESE FLAWS FOR SEVERAL YEARS AND HAD TAKEN NO ACTION TO CORRECT THEM. CF. 60 COMP.GEN. 674, 676 (1981) ("IF (THE SUPERVISOR) HAD BEEN AWARE OF THE LAX SECURITY PROCEDURES THEN IN EFFECT * * * HE WOULD HAVE BEEN NEGLIGENT IN HIS DUTY NOT TO HAVE TAKEN CORRECTIVE ACTION. * * * (HOWEVER, (HE) DID NOT HAVE THIS KNOWLEDGE AND SINCE HE WAS NOT DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SECURITY PROGRAM, WE CANNOT FIND HIM NEGLIGENT."). WHILE WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI BEHAVED AS REASONABLY AND PRUDENTLY AS THEY MIGHT HAVE, WE CONCLUDE THAT THE PERVASIVE LAXITY IN THE POLICIES, PROCEDURES, AND FACILITIES ESTABLISHED IN THE CLERK'S OFFICE WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE LOSS. BECAUSE MR. DECESARIS WORKED IN THE SAME OFFICE FROM WHICH THE FUNDS WERE STOLEN, RATHER THAN AT A REMOTE LOCATION WHICH MIGHT PRECLUDE HIM FROM BEING AWARE OF THE DAY-TO-DAY ACTIVITIES IN THE CLERK'S OFFICE, THE FLAW IN THE PROCEDURES FOLLOWED SHOULD HAVE BEEN EVIDENT TO HIM. WOULD THEREFORE BE UNREASONABLE TO REQUIRE MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI TO HAVE PROTESTED TO THEIR SUPERIOR UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES.

WE ACCORDINGLY CONCLUDE THAT AS CLERK OF THE COURT MR. DECESARIS FAILED TO PROVIDE FACILITIES AND ESTABLISH AND ENFORCE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES THAT WERE REASONABLY CALCULATED TO PROTECT THE FUNDS ENTRUSTED TO HIM THROUGH HIS SUBORDINATES. THE CAGES, FOR EXAMPLE, WERE OBVIOUSLY VULNERABLE. CF. 60 COMP.GEN. 674, 676 (1981). THE ASSIGNMENT OF TWO DEPUTY COURTROOM CLERKS TO EACH CAGE CLEARLY DEPRIVED THEM OF EXCLUSIVE CONTROL AND THEREBY DEPRIVED HIS OFFICE OF ACCOUNTABILITY AMONG THE DEPUTY COURTROOM CLERKS FOR ITEMS ENTRUSTED TO THEM. SEE B-204647, FEBRUARY 8, 1982. FURTHERMORE, THE SECURITY OF THE CAGES AND VAULT AREA WAS GROSSLY DEFICIENT, AS WERE THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE CAGES THEMSELVES, AND THE CONFIDENTIALITY AND ROUTINE CHANGING OF COMBINATIONS APPARENTLY WAS NOT ACCOMPLISHED. BASED ON THE FOREGOING CONCLUSIONS, WE GRANT RELIEF TO MS. COPPOLA AND MS. ZINNI, BUT WE DENY RELIEF TO MR. DECESARIS BECAUSE WE CANNOT CONCLUDE THAT THIS LOSS OCCURRED WITHOUT SIGNIFICANT NEGLIGENCE OR FAULT ON HIS PART.

/1/ WE POINT OUT IN PASSING THAT MS. COPPOLA, MS. ZINNI AND MR. DECESARIS ARE ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS. SEE, E.G., 59 COMP.GEN. 113, 114 (1974). SEE ALSO, B-185486, FEBRUARY 5, 1976 (CLERK FOR EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA FOUND TO BE AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER). UNDER 5 U.S.C. 5512 (1982), OFFSET FROM SALARY IS SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED TO RECOVER DEBTS OWED BY ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS AS A RESULT OF THE LOSS OF FUNDS ENTRUSTED TO THEM. THEREFORE, 5 U.S.C. 5514 DOES NOT GOVERN THE COLLECTION BY OFFSET OF THE DEBTS OWED IN THIS CASE. IF THE LOST FUNDS ARE NOT OTHERWISE RECOVERABLE, THE PROCEDURES DICTATED BY SECTION 5512 SHOULD BE FOLLOWED.

/2/ E.G., B-203646, NOVEMBER 30, 1981; B-204647, FEBRUARY 8, 1982; B-196855, DECEMBER 9, 1981; B-197799, JUNE 19, 1980; B-191942, SEPTEMBER 12, 1979; B-191440, MAY 25, 1979; B-189658, SEPTEMBER 20, 1977; B-182386, APRIL 24, 1975; B-173133-O.M., DECEMBER 10, 1973; B-177963-O.M., MARCH 21, 1973; B-170615-O.M., NOV. 23, 1971; B-170596 O.M., NOVEMBER 16, 1970; B-169756-O.M., JULY 8, 1970; B-78617, JUNE 24, 1949.

/3/ SEE, E.G., 60 COMP.GEN. 674 (1981); B-208511, MAY 19, 1983; B-170012, AUGUST 11, 1970; B-167130-O.M., JULY 30, 1969; B-160228-O.M., FEBRUARY 8, 1867; B-139886, JULY 2, 1959; B-127204, APRIL 13, 1956; B-92784, MARCH 16, 1950. CONDITIONS-- UNIT SITUATED IN KOREA DURING THE KOREAN WAR-- CAUSED LOSS AND WERE BEYOND THE CONTROL OR NEGLECT OF THE ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER, UNLIKE THE SITUATION IN B-127204, APR. 13, 1956).

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