December 09, 1999
In the Matter of the Petition by )
MARIAN DONERSON )
2621 S. Arcadian Shores Road )
Ontario, CA 91761-7507 ) P.S. Docket No. DCA 99-416
APPEARANCE FOR PETITIONER: Marian Donerson
2621 S. Arcadian Shores Road
Ontario, CA 91761-7507
APPEARANCE FOR RESPONDENT: David English
Labor Relations Specialist
United States Postal Service
2300 Redondo Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90809-9401
FINAL DECISION UNDER THE DEBT COLLECTION ACT OF 1982
Petitioner, Marian Donerson, filed a timely Petition after receiving a Notice of Involuntary Administrative Salary Offsets, dated September 9, 1999, from the Long Beach Postmaster. This Notice stated the Postal Service's intention to withhold $123.20 from Petitioner's salary to recover a loss sustained when Petitioner cashed a forged check for $246.40. Petitioner filed a grievance, which was settled between management and Petitioner's union, the agreement calling for Petitioner to pay one-half of the amount. Respondent has now re-issued the Notice to claim the full amount of the alleged loss, $246.40. Under the rules applicable to this proceeding that is permissible when a union/management settlement is not accepted by the employee and the employee files a Debt Collection Act Petition. Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), §462.22(c). Therefore, the amount in issue is $246.40.
Petitioner elected a hearing based on written submissions, and the parties were given the opportunity to submit additional evidence and argument, beyond that submitted with the Petition and the Answer. Following a telephone conference on October 28, 1999, an Order was issued telling the parties that they should file sworn statements of witnesses who had relevant information. Petitioner was told to "submit her own sworn statement as to what she believed to be the identification requirements for check cashing, and what procedures she followed in cashing the check that is the subject of this case." Respondent filed sworn statements from the postmaster and a window clerk training instructor. Petitioner filed unsworn statements from herself and three other clerks. The following findings of fact are based on all the materials submitted by the parties.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Petitioner has been a window clerk at the Lynwood, California Post Office since February 1992. On September 22, 1993, a customer presented a U. S. Treasury check in the amount of $246.40, to be cashed. The check was a Social Security payment, payable to Antoinette Thomas. Ms. Thomas' social security number, (redacted), was printed on the check.
2. The customer showed Ms. Donerson some form of California identification that included the same social security number as was on the check, and included a photograph that looked like the person presenting the check. Ms. Donerson wrote her initials, the date, and the social security number on the face of the check, and cashed it. On the rear of the check is a signature, "Antoinette Thomas," and another signature that Respondent identifies as "Wardell Washington," but which is illegible on the copy contained in the case file.
3. In April 1994, the post office was notified by Union Bank that payment on the check had been refused because Antoinette Thomas had died on May 23, 1993. The bank charged $246.40 to the post office account. In May 1994, the postmaster issued a Letter of Demand to Petitioner for $246.40. Petitioner filed a grievance under the union/management agreement and, on July 30, 1999, the union and management agreed to reduce the demand to $123.20. Petitioner was then issued the Notice of Involuntary Administrative Salary Offsets and she filed her Petition.(1)
4. The following provisions of Postal Service Handbook F-1, Post Office Accounting Procedures (April 1991),(2) are applicable:
313.11 Treasury checks, including USPS salary checks, may be cashed provided sufficient funds are available. . . ..
313.12 Treasury checks must not be cashed for anyone but the payee named on the face of the check. . . ..
* * *
313.22 If the payee presenting the check is not personally known:
a. Two forms of identification described in section 311.33 must be presented.
b. Compare the signatures on the check and identification. If the signatures do not match, do not cash the check.
c. On the back of the check at C on Exhibit 311.35, write (1) serial number and full description of each identification, (2) payee's street address including the city, state, and ZIP code, and (3) payee's telephone number.
311.33 If the customer is unknown, record the name and identifying number from one of the following photograph-bearing documents on the check in location A, as shown in Exhibit 311.32:
a. Driver's license.
b. State-issued, non-driver identification.
c. Passport (foreign or domestic).
d. Military identification card.
5. The practice followed at the Lynwood Post Office during the entire time Petitioner has been a window clerk has been to require two forms of identification when cashing Treasury checks, as required by the F-1 Handbook (Hartley Declaration). The training in window clerk duties received by Petitioner included instruction on the requirement to see two forms of identification when cashing Treasury checks (Pearson Declaration).
There is no dispute in this case that the Postal Service suffered a loss of $246.40, and that the loss was the result of Petitioner cashing a forged social security check. The issue is whether Petitioner followed established procedures, or exercised reasonable care, in cashing the check.
Petitioner cites the rule in §311.33, quoted above, and implies that this is the only rule she was required to follow. The rule for cashing Treasury checks, however, clearly states that two forms of identification are required. Petitioner does not claim that she saw a second identification from the customer who presented the check.(3) The rule in effect in 1993 also required that a clerk record certain information on the back of the check (see §313.22c). Petitioner failed to do that as well. The evidence submitted by Petitioner does not demonstrate that the procedures established for the Lynwood office were different from those prescribed in the F-1 Handbook. Accordingly, Petitioner's failure to follow the required procedures makes her liable for the loss of $246.40.
The Petition is denied. Respondent may collect $246.40 from Petitioner's salary.
Bruce R. Houston
Chief Administrative Law Judge
1 Although a Debt Collection Act Hearing Official has no role in the grievance/arbitration process, it is worth noting that this case stayed in that process for more than five years, and it does not appear from the documents in this case file that anyone ever addressed the only pertinent issue, i.e., what were the identification requirements for check-cashing and did Petitioner follow them?
3 It is noted that one of Petitioner's witnesses, Ms. Scott, in arguing on Petitioner's behalf, states that Petitioner saw a second identification. Petitioner has never made this claim, however, either in her statement dated May 18, 1994, or in the statement submitted in support of this Petition.