Make us your home page

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, 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

  1. Editorial: The numbers behind the opioid crisis


    Drug overdoses are now the leading killer of Americans under 50, driven largely by the opioid epidemic that is ravaging every state — and Florida is no exception. A report issued this week shows more than 1.27 million hospital emergency room visits or inpatient visits linked to opioids in 2014, with emergency room …

    Gov. Rick Scott declared a drug overdose state of emergency last month, unlocking $27 million in federal funds for prevention, treatment and recovery services.
  2. Trump says he didn't tape his conversations with Comey


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he "did not make" and doesn't have any recordings of his private conversations with James Comey — his fired FBI director.

    President Donald Trump speaks during the "American Leadership in Emerging Technology" event in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Washington. [AP Photo/Evan Vucci]
  3. St. Pete council advances limits on PAC money in city elections


    In front of large group of red-shirted supporters, the St. Petersburg City Council gave initial approval Thursday to an ordinance limiting campaign contributions to $5,000 from political action committees.

    A large crowd gathered Thursday to support passage of a controversial measure to limit campaign spending in city elections
  4. Bill Nelson on GOP health care bill: 'Now we know why they tried to keep this secret'


    WASHINGTON - Sen. Bill Nelson lashed out at the GOP health care plan released Thursday, deeming it "just as bad as the House bill."

    Reporters on Thursday wait for Republican senators to leave a briefing on the health care bill
  5. Video: Loggerhead sea turtle found in Islamorada resident's pool


    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on Monday, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys.

    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on June 22, 2017, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys. [Photo from video]