Fayette County

City retiree gets $250,000 check by mistake, then reports the error

Finley Cisco opened his final retirement payout check from the city and his eyes bugged: $250,000. Whoa!

That jubilation lasted about five seconds. "I'm no banker, but I knew I better take this back. It couldn't be right," Cisco said on Friday.

A friend urged him to do otherwise, saying "Man, I would've been in Mexico before they found out."

When he received the check in January, Cisco called Mary Fister in the accounting department. A stop payment was immediately put on the check. An internal audit review sent to Mayor Jim Newberry earlier this month detailed the mistake.

Cisco, 50, retired in December as a building inspector after 21 years of working for the Urban County Government. His retirement check, including accumulated vacation hours and overtime, should have been about $23,000.

The big mistake occurred because of human error, Linda Rumpke, commissioner of finance and administration, said on Friday.

In entering payroll data, "You have a place for their name, how much they make per hour," she said. The key punch operator "put too many digits in that category."

Cisco's check was in just the third or fourth payroll since the city's new PeopleSoft automated payroll was put in place just before Thanksgiving. "Anytime you implement a new system, you are tweaking payroll to payroll," Rumpke said.

The city's computerized auditing system did not pick up the error because Cisco's name as a city employee had been removed from the payroll system since he had retired.

"The check didn't go under the normal audit process," Rumpke said. "It was an anomaly to the system."

The system has several layers of safeguards, she said. But in this instance, "a few of them didn't work."

But Cisco could not have cashed the large check even if he had presented it for payment. "They automatically would have called us," Rumpke said.

In an internal audit sent to Newberry earlier this month, Bruce Sahli, the city's director of internal audit, said several steps have been implemented since January "to address some control and monitoring issues exposed by the erroneous payout check."

Rumpke said that with the city's former computer system, there were hundreds of errors each payday that had to be reconciled by hand. "That number has been reduced to a handful each pay period. That's a good thing," she said.

For his part, Cisco said he was happy to get his $23,000 retirement check. "It's my little nest egg," he said on Friday, as he prepared to go hiking on the Appalachian Trail.