Chilton County School District demanding more than $23,000 from an employee after overpaying her for nearly six years

Chilton Co. teacher overpaid, told she owes $23K
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 10:21 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2022 at 10:43 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A Chilton County school employee tells WBRC that she was shocked when she received a letter from the school district saying she owed them more than 23 thousand dollars.

Chilton County School District demanding more than $23,000 from an employee after overpaying...
Chilton County School District demanding more than $23,000 from an employee after overpaying her for nearly six years(Christie Payne)

In the letter, the district said she had been overpaid for about six years.

Lunchroom manager, Christie Payne, tells WBRC that she doesn’t know how she will pay it back and she didn’t know she was being overpaid.

“She was not aware,” Alabama Educator’s Association Representative Tracy LeSieur said. “Being that she moved from an assistant manager position to a manager position, so you see an increase so you think ok lets go with it.”

Payne is now working with the AEA’s legal team. The letter said she owes $23,465.40 total. The district wants to agree on a payment plan and are offering her three options. Payne can pay $325.91 monthly for 72 months, $3,910.90 annually for the next six years, or pay in one lump sum.

“As anybody that sees a sum like that that they are going to have to pay back, she was a little concerned,” LeSieur said. “We met this morning and started our process with the AEA legal team. They review any documents, so that is the process we are in now.”

WBRC took the letter to a legal expert. Attorney Ken Riley isn’t working on this case, but said the district may not legally be able to get all the money back depending on the timeline.

“If I was her attorney, I would want to know how often do you audit,” Riley said. “Should you have known that you were overpaying her earlier? There was no evidence at this point that there was ever an audit done, but employers do have an obligation to make sure their payroll is correct.”

Riley said statute of limitations may come into play depending on when the district caught the mistake. He said Payne will likely be out even more money, because now her salary will be less.

“She is now not only out the amount of money she was being overpaid that she had budgeted for,” Riley said. “But, now she is being asked, really demanded, to pay that amount back. It is a double whammy. “If you don’t do a good job with your records, and you overpay somebody, you shouldn’t really be in a situation where that person gets penalized.”

The letter also says if Payne doesn’t make a monthly payment, they will tack on $254 in interest.

“I don’t think there is any law that says you can tack on interest at this point,” Riley said. “But, anytime somebody is owed money and somebody chooses not to pay them, that is something that can be claimed in court.”

WBRC reached out to the Chilton County Superintendent, Jason Griffin, about the letter. He said he can not comment because of employee privacy rights. He also would not tell us if other employees were overpaid.


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