Three Black Hills mayors are complaining after local National Guard members have been told to return bonus pay they mistakenly received.

Some members of the 842nd Engineering Company were notified in March that they had been overpaid and were told not to spend the money; in June they received instructions on how to pay back the money.

But Lead Mayor Jerry Apa along with Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke and Deadwood Mayor Chuck Turbeville drafted a letter expressing frustration about how the problem was rectified.

"After more than two months of no communication on the matter many (guard members) assumed the money was theirs, many began paying bills, making purchases, etc.," the letter, sent to the Journal, reads.

The mayors described the letter sent in June to Guard members to collect the money as "very cold with neither a token apology for the mistake nor a reason for the delay in notifying the affected personnel."

"I think somebody should be making apologies to these men, who didn't need this," Apa said Tuesday.

Apa said he'd like to see the Guard work with individuals to develop payment plans, rather than offering standard plans that allow only a handful of options, including immediate full payment or collecting 20 percent of members' paychecks until the money is repaid.

The pay itself is a special compensation bonus for Guard members who deploy again before taking an allotted rest period between deployments, according to Maj. Anthony Deiss, a spokesman for the South Dakota National Guard. Guard members accrue one payment day for every month of service that infringes on the allotted rest period.

Deiss said he does not know how many Guard members were overpaid.

The 842nd has been busy. The company was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2004. In 2011, some of the company's 160 members were called from training for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan to work against the Missouri River flood waters at Pierre and Fort Pierre. The 842nd deployed to Afghanistan later that year, where it built a forward operating base.

In the past couple months, part of the company helped build an archery shooting range in Yankton while others constructed a mock Afghan village near Belle Fourche for the U.S. Air Force.

Deiss said the miscalculation was made in the Guard's local personnel office and was caught by another local office and corrected.

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"It's money they're not authorized to have. They're not entitled to it," Deiss said. "We tried to get the word out ahead of time to make sure they don't spend this money."

In one case, the overpayment amounted to $4,400, according to a letter sent to one Guard member and obtained by the Journal. The Guard member was calculated as being owed for 23 days when the Guard member was only owed for one day, according to the letter.

Mistakes like these have happened in the past, and Deiss said he was overpaid in one instance last year.

"It was a mistake; the guy entered my orders wrong," he said. "It happens."

 

 

Contact Joe O'Sullivan at 394-8414 or joe.osullivan@rapidcityjournal.com

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