Deadbeat District (massive computer payroll problem - "While some are waiting to be get paid, checks are shipped to deceased workers") : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


Deadbeat district

While some are waiting to get paid, checks are shipped to deceased workers

by Yvette Ousley

Daily News Staff Writer

Longtime School District secretary Peggy Brogdon died in July.

But you'd never know, since Brogdon and others have been mailed hundreds of dollars in posthumous paychecks from the district, according to sources and documents obtained by the Daily News.

Brogdon, 70, who died in mid-July, is one of hundreds of deceased employees, retirees and district workers both past and present whose salaries are screwed up by a pricey new School District payroll and purchasing system.

And paying dead people - something the district has denied - is only one of the bumbling mistakes uncovered by the Daily News.

Due to a glitch in the district's $26 million computer payroll and purchasing system:

In a little more than two months, the district has mistakenly paid more than a half a million dollars to retirees and other former district workers, including some who have died.

Hundreds of employees have not been paid, have been underpaid, or have been paid double their normal salaries since school began eight weeks ago, sources said.

More than 4,000 district employees - including janitors, building engineers and school police - have not received contracted bonuses. The bonuses earmarked for 1,000 janitors and 500 engineers range from $250 to $500. School police were due three-percent raises on Sept. 1.

The computer problem "is massive and it crosses every bargaining unit," according to Tom Doyle, president of the International Brotherhood of Firemen and Oilers, whose union is considering a lawsuit.

Nearly 50 vendors, including Apple Computers, Home Depot and Silver Burdett Ginn, a mammoth book supplier, have cut off supplies to the district because they have not been paid what's owed to them, sources said.

"It's unconscionable to expect people to work and not expect a check on payday," said Jerry Jordan, vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

"The School District is so cavalier about not paying individuals and not having a system in place to pay them immediately," Jordan said. "It's just unacceptable. How do you expect people to go for weeks without being paid?"

But workers like Alice Wright continue to do their jobs, despite the fact that they haven't seen cash in weeks.

"I'm going crazy," said Wright, 58, of West Philadelphia, a $5.15-per-hour substitute preschool assistant, who hadn't been paid in a month.

"I'm behind on my car note, my Visa, my J.C. Penney's," she said. "I'm borrowing money from my children, from my friends, to live."

After Daily News inquiries, the district on Friday paid her a portion of the money owed to her. Herbert Schectman, acting executive director of financial services, said he didn't know why she hadn't been paid.

"We are paying as many people properly as we can, and we're very proud of it, quite frankly," Schectman said. "We think we're doing an excellent job."

"That's insane," said City Controller Jonathan Saidel, after learning of the problem. "One thing with the city, we don't pay ghost employees, and we don't pay dead people.

"One thing the superintendent did a couple of years ago was get rid of the auditors," Saidel said. "If he had an appropriate staff of auditors, this wouldn't have happened."

The Daily News was unable yesterday to reach Barbara Grant, the district's spokeswoman, for comment.

But district officials readily admitted last week that it had paid a total of $542,000 - in some cases through direct deposit - to retirees and other former workers who shouldn't have collected the money.

Secretaries who have used the new system say they are frustrated by glitch after glitch.

"Needless to say, since Aug. 9, 1999, we have experienced nothing but total frustration," said a letter from Barbara Hood and Donna Johnson, two school secretaries with a combined total of more than 30 years of experience in payroll reporting. Hood works at Widener Memorial School; Johnson is a secretary at Shawmont School.

But the district says it's not the $26 million "Advantage" computer system that's making the mistakes. Herbert Kaufman, the district's director of employment operations, contends that principals and secretaries who have not submitted the proper paperwork for employees - and not the megabucks new computer system used by human resources and finance - are largely to blame for employees' not being paid.

"Regretfully, too many principals are still hanging on [to the old system]," Kaufman said.

Still, there are lots of questions left unanswered after an hour-long meeting with school bigs last week.

The district claimed it has already recovered $207,000 of the money, but it does not know when, or at what cost, it will be able to recover the rest.

The half-million dollar foul-up doesn't include workers whose salaries were doubled after checks were direct-deposited into their accounts - and issued manually as well.

In order to restore the flow of supplies to schools, district employees have been ordered to pay 47 vendors who have cut off shipments - even without verification that the supplies have been delivered.

Despite the fact that payroll employees are working seven-day weeks to rectify the problems, dozens of employees - who haven't been paid, or were underpaid - many of them minimum wage earners, have been unable to pay their mortgages and car loans, or provide for their families.

The errors affect everyone from night-school employees and bus drivers to principals, teachers, and coaches.

According to employees and union officials who spoke with the Daily News, payroll officials claimed the problem was "a glitch in the computer system that has something to do with coding."

Whatever the case, it isn't very comforting to people who haven't been paid in weeks - or to people who find themselves having to report that they've been grossly underpaid or overpaid.

According to one source, the district mistakenly cut a check totaling $64,000 for one employee.

Another worker received a check for four cents on payday.

And Brogdon, the longtime secretary who died in July, was issued at least two paychecks totaling $1,191.68 after her death, one on Sept. 17 and one on Oct. 1, records obtained by the Daily News show.

Deborah Curry, a long-term substitute teacher's assistant, said on Thursday that she hadn't been paid in five weeks, and that left her a month-and-a-half behind on her $430 monthly mortgage and on the brink of having her phone, gas and electric shut off.

"It doesn't matter how much they owe me. It's the point that I've come there faithfully and worked every day and I haven't been paid," said Curry, a wife and mother of a 4- and a 5-year-old who has worked at Thurgood Marshall Elementary for two years. "No one is going to work for free.

"The payroll people are saying they can't do anything about it. But I bet David Hornbeck got his paycheck," Curry said.

Following Daily News inquiries, Curry said she received a paycheck Friday for part of the money owed to her.

Jordan said the teachers' union has fielded dozens of calls from employees like Wright and Curry - many of them nonunion members - whom they've tried to help by giving them a few dollars or making phone calls, writing letters and making referrals to the Mary Mason Community Foundation. The Foundation has agreed to provide interest-free loans to district employees who have not been paid, Jordan said.

The union, he said, also has fielded calls from people who have retired or resigned, like former Philadelphia Federation of Teachers staff representative John Mickens, who retired this year, but who continue to receive paychecks and aren't sure what to do.

The union has twice sent letters to Superintendent David Hornbeck, Jordan said, listing the names of some 80-plus people who have not been paid and requesting that the administration pay them. So far, the union has not received a response, he said.

Firemen and Oilers union chief Doyle, along with the School Police Association, went to court two weeks ago to complain that union members hadn't received bonuses. Union members were assured the problem would be rectified by last Friday, which was payday.

But when the deadline rolled around, Doyle said he was getting hundreds of calls from bus drivers and other union members who complained that their checks were still fouled up. Doyle said some people haven't gotten overtime or bonus money since the school year began.

Others haven't been paid at all.

"I'm frustrated, the phones have been ringing off the hook for the last day-and-a-half. We were supposed to get our bonuses Sept. 17, then Oct. 1, then Oct. 15, and we're still having problems, and it's not just us," said Doyle.

"This computer system, something dramatic has to be done. We'll probably be going back into court . . . seeking damages."

District officials began installing a state of the art computer system called "Advantage" 21 months ago. The system was supposed to make budget, payroll and finance task more efficient.

The computer replaced another computerized payroll system that allowed people who hadn't been paid to walk into payroll with a letter from their school's principal and have a manual check cut.

The new system heavily relies on people - principals and secretaries at the school level - to notify human resources when people like aides and subs are hired, or when people resign or retire, school officials said. If the schools do not notify human resources, human resources doesn't notify payroll and people who have left the system continue to get paid.

Employees complain that the new system was suppose to streamline every process, from hiring to payroll to vendor payments.

"Instead, you get less work done because it takes more steps to do the same process that would have taken one step in the old system," said one employee who works for the district but asked that she not be identified. "The bottom line, production is down because you accomplish less in a day."

But Kaufman, the district executive, insists that "we have a very efficient system that will work once this whole school district starts to utilize that system the way that it is supposed to work."

Still, people like Curry, the long-term substitute preschool teacher who hasn't been paid in five weeks, have lost patience.

After the district screwed up her paycheck once again last Friday, she threw in the towel.

"They asked me to work next week," said Curry. "But I told them no, I'd be looking for another job."

-- Homer Beanfang (, October 18, 1999


Looks like the problem started in July, but showed up in September when the real checks had to be sent out.


-- nothere nothere (, October 18, 1999.

Welcome back Homer... we missed you!

...The computer problem "is massive and it crosses every bargaining unit," according to Tom Doyle, president of the International Brotherhood of Firemen and Oilers, whose union is considering a lawsuit.

Nearly 50 vendors, including Apple Computers, Home Depot and Silver Burdett Ginn, a mammoth book supplier, have cut off supplies to the district because they have not been paid what's owed to them, sources said. ...

Imagine JUST this scenario, (not to mention all the other potential Y2K global impacts) happening in simultanious areas, all over the planet?

Can you envision the... global economic impact?

Thought you could.


-- Diane J. Squire (, October 18, 1999.

Why hasn't this been fixed, in say -- 2 or 3 hours??

Why are they only giving some of the workers part of what they are owed?

Why can't they just cut them a manual check??

-- Wilferd (, October 19, 1999.

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