Washtenaw County, MI: Employee Paycheck Problems Caused By Computer Glitches

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Some employees won't see all money owed to them until March Thursday, February 10, 2000


Washtenaw County employees continue to receive underpayments and other mistakes in their payroll checks more than a month after a new payroll computer system was installed.

County Administrator Robert Guenzel again Wednesday told county employees that glitches remain in the county's payroll system and that it will probably be the end of March before some employees receive retroactive payments for incorrect paychecks they have received in the first three pay periods of the year.

About 200 county employees have reported errors in their paychecks since the first of the year, said deputy county administrator Frank Cambria.

After the problem was first reported in early January, county officials said they expected to quickly fix what was a small problem. But problems have persisted in each of the three pay cycles through Feb. 3. Twice a month, the county issues paychecks totaling $2 million for 1,300 employees.

Simone Shulman will have to wait for March for part of the money the county owes her.

The past three checks for Shulman, a mental health specialist at the County Jail, went awry, ending up in a closed account through direct deposit. She eventually got paid, but it caused problems.

"It's very frustrating because people have mortgages due and need paychecks on days they are supposed to get them," she said. "They still owe me a couple of hundred dollars for hours already worked, and they say I will have to wait until March."

The problem is a new computer system the county installed in an effort to avoid Y2K glitches. The transfer to the new system has caused a variety of technical problems, with at least a dozen employees not receiving a paycheck at all. Other problems involved union-negotiated annual raises that weren't prorated, overtime compensation that was left out and deductions that were miscalculated.

In an e-mail sent to county employees Wednesday, Guenzel said repairs to the system are taking longer than expected. They have been prioritized, but new problems keep turning up that require additional work, he said. In the memo, Guenzel explained the process for employees to report problems. He also provided information for emergency cases involving employees who are "owed a substantial amount of money and cannot wait until March to be reimbursed by the county ..."

The Sheriff's Department, which has many employees working midnight shifts, overtime and on weekends, probably suffered the most from the computer foul-up, said Carol Bernard, who is in charge of the sheriff's administrative operations.

"We've been working feverishly to keep our employees abreast, trying to get paychecks correct," Bernard said. "It's obviously a system problem. Many officers worked on Christmas holiday, working double time, but they didn't get paid for overtime. The system didn't identify any of the Christmas Day pay."

Some checks calculated overtime at the 1997 rate, while income tax or deferred compensation deductions were double or three times what should have been, she said.

"Some people are depending on paycheck to paycheck to face their obligations. But most staff has been extremely patient, although some were getting anxious," Bernard said.

Guenzel said the county switched to the J.D. Edwards system last year from the old MSA system as part of preparations to deal with any Y2K problems. Everything worked fine on Jan. 1, except payroll processing.

Guenzel has communicated several times with county employees, explaining why the errors occurred and what's being done to correct the situation. Wednesday's e-mail was preceded by another two-page memo on Feb. 3 that asked employees to fill out a "Problem Identification Form."

Employees who did not get a paycheck will get the top priority attention, with a substitute check issued at the end of payday. Checks showing a deficiency of more than $200 will be replaced the next day with the correct amount.

"We're still in transition to the new system," Guenzel said in an interview. "Some are human errors, and some are errors in the new system. We're certainly pursuing the problems caused by transition with the vendor. ... We've been struggling with the new system, but each (pay period) pay gets better. There is just a lot of data to enter, and it just takes time. But we are moving through it."

Staff reporter Chong W. Pyen can be reached at (734) 994-6828. Link


-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), February 10, 2000

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