City overpays elevator bill by $53,998.14--computer glitch blamed : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

City overpays elevator bill by $53,998.14--computer glitch blamed

Contractor keeps cash, cites overdue invoices


Copyright 2000 Houston Chronicle

Last month, the city of Houston sent one of its contractors, Elevator Maintenance Co. Inc, a check for $54,223.14 for services rendered.

Two weeks later, the city controller's office sent the company a letter asking for most of that money back, saying the check was written for an incorrect amount. The check, according to the letter written Jan. 26, should have been for the amount on the company's invoice: $225.

Doyle Johnson, president of Elevator Maintenance, responded with a letter of his own last week. He said no.

Johnson wrote that the check was, in fact, a late payment by the city for work the company had performed as long ago as December 1998.

"When we received the check in question, with the notation `late payment,' we applied the monies to all outstanding account invoices charged to the contract," Johnson wrote in the Feb. 8 letter. "We feel that the City of Houston paying overdue invoices is not a mistake."

His letter, however, does not state how much the company believes it is, or was, owed on overdue invoices. Johnson could not be reached Wednesday.

The controller's office said the check appears to be a result of a computer glitch.

"Basically, the check came out at $54,000, and the invoice was for $225 and the voucher was for $225," said Chief Deputy Controller Judy Gray Johnson. "We've got our systems group and the Finance and Administration information systems group working on it. They are trying to trace every piece to figure out could it have been entered wrong. It appears to have been entered right, but it came out for the wrong amount. There's never been one like it."

Nonetheless, she said, the controller's office now is trying to determine whether the city owes the company for unpaid invoices on its $1.1 million contract. According to the controller's records, the city already has paid out nearly $311,000 on the contract.

The contract, approved in 1998, is to provide services to 10 city departments. Judy Johnson said the controller's office has asked the departments to submit copies of all unpaid invoices from the company in an effort to match them against those furnished by Elevator Maintenance.


-- Carl Jenkins (, February 17, 2000

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