Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa audit: City to make 'full recovery' from widow mistakenly paid more than $140,000 in death benefits

TAMPA — City Hall expects to make a "full recovery" from a widow mistakenly paid more than $140,000 in death benefits, according to an internal audit.

Tampa's general employees pension plan overpaid Emma Winters of Tampa after the 2011 death of her husband Jerry, a city Water Department technician.

Instead of receiving a single lump-sum benefit check, she got one a month for five months. Including the taxes that were withheld, the city's overpayment totaled $197,361.

The city sued Mrs. Winters in January to recover the money. To settle the case, Mrs. Winters deeded to the city a single-family home in St. Petersburg that she owned free and clear.

The home, at 2701 58th St. N in the Westgate Heights North area of St. Petersburg, is assessed for tax purposes at about $144,000. But a broker's price opinion obtained during the lawsuit estimated it could be sold for closer to $200,000.

"They're certainly getting an asset that's valued for greater than what they overpaid" to her, said Mrs. Winters' attorney, Ivan Lenoir II of Tampa. If the city makes more from selling the house than what it overpaid to her, she's entitled to the difference.

The overpayment error cost two city employees their jobs. One, a supervisor for the plan, was fired. The other, a manager, quit as the city prepared disciplinary proceedings against her.

Officials said the two did not catch the mistake for four months, then kept quiet about it for five months after they did know. In the wake of the problem, city auditors recommended several changes to the pension plan office, and those have been made, city officials say.

The city has two general employee pension plans, one for employees who went to work at the city before Oct. 1, 1981 and a second for those who started after. The second plan provides for a death benefit to the survivors of vested employees. The benefit is equal to year's pay. City officials say it's usually paid out a few times a year.

After the overpayment came to light, the pension office worked with city computer programmers to create a bit of code that would restrict death benefit payments to being processed once.

The office also has begun reviewing all payments of $6,000 or more to make sure they are appropriate and has created a checklist of death benefit payments to verify that those listed in the office's disbursement journal have not been processed before.

Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403, Danielson@tampabay.com or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

Tampa audit: City to make 'full recovery' from widow mistakenly paid more than $140,000 in death benefits 10/14/13 [Last modified: Monday, October 14, 2013 10:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Small helicopter crashes into Odessa home

    Accidents

    ODESSA — Firefighters and sheriff's deputies were investigating Monday after a small helicopter crashed into the roof of a house in northwest Hillsborough County.

    Rescuers respond to a crash of a small helicopter on the roof of a home in the Odessa area on Monday. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]
  2. State investigation cites multiple failures in death of Largo child

    News

    LARGO — It was sweltering in the bedroom of the Largo mobile home the day a child welfare case manager visited in July.

    Liz Rutenbeck, 24, poses with her son William in a Facebook photo. Baby William Hendrickson IV died while his mother was in jail after police said his father left ihim in a sweltering room.  A state investigation into the boy's death found multiple failures on the part of the child welfare system.
  3. 'Siesta Key' star punched in face, not sure who did it

    News

    TAMPA —Alex Kompothecras, cast member on MTV's reality show "Siesta Key," tells police he was punched in the face outside a bar in Tampa's SoHo district.

    Alex Kompothecras, Juliette Porter, Pauly Apostolides, Madisson Hausburg, Chloe Trautman, Garrett Miller, Kelsey Owens and Brandon Gomes pose for a photo in Siesta Key in June before the debut of the MTV reality series Siesta Key. [
EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  4. Editorial: Senate health care bill would be disastrous for Florida

    Editorials

    The frantic effort by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with something — anything — ranks raw politics over sound policy and threatens the health care of millions of Floridians. It is a desperate attempt to declare victory by shifting responsibility from the federal government …

    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks in August in Doral.
  5. Four questions the Lightning still has to answer

    Lightning Strikes

    FORT LAUDERDALE — The Lightning made its biggest round of cuts Monday, with some of the big-named prospects heading out.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) looks on from the bench during a shift change at Lightning hockey training camp in Brandon on Monday (09/18/17). In background on right is Nikita Kucherov (86). DIRK SHADD   |   Times