You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Agency: Lone clerk sat on hundreds of unemployment appeals


A lone clerk in the state's social services agency hid hundreds of unemployment denial appeals requests over more than three years to avoid work rather than filing them with the Arizona Court of Appeals, a state official has told the court.

The missing cases finally came to light late last year when people started calling the Department of Economic Security inquiring about their appeals, the department's appellate services administrator, Marilyn White, testified at a recent hearing. A slew of old cases filed with the court led to an unusual February order that the department immediately file the appeals or face contempt of court proceedings.

White told a three-judge panel that what she originally thought was only a few dozen cases stashed in the appeals board clerk's office continued to grow and now sits at about 300. After the clerk resigned on March 6, appeals filings were found "just all over her office."

"We found some in an in-basket in her office. We found some in a lateral file in her office. We found some in a banker box for a case that the court had long since sent back an order on," White said on April 19. "They were tucked inside another case file. We found some in a file drawer in her desk."

Assistant Attorney General JoAnn Falgout asked White if it would "be fair to say that she was literally hiding them." White agreed.

The clerk was hired in November 2013 and assigned as the chief clerk of the agency's appeals board. Among her jobs was to handle appeals from citizens who were denied unemployment benefits and had exhausted the standard appeal process.

In those cases, the people file another appeal request, and the clerk's role was to gather the file and transcripts of earlier hearings and have them transmitted to the court of appeals.

White said an investigation found the clerk had established an elaborate system where office workers would note the appeal filing in the agency's computer system but place it into a queue that wasn't normally used. They then were told to give the paper copy to the clerk, who stashed it in her office.

The clerk also eventually told her staff to tell callers that it could take up to two years for the Court of Appeals to begin acting on a case. That two-year time frame is what prompted the rash of calls that finally got the agency to discover the missing filings.

Agency spokeswoman Tasya Peterson said Friday that there were problems with the system that allowed one person to sidetrack so many cases.

"There were inefficient processes. There was turnover in staff," Peterson said. "The department needed to shore up its processes, and we feel confident that we have put a new process in place that will remediate this issue moving forward."

The court of appeals is still considering whether to issue sanctions against the department. Several people who were denied benefits and whose appeals were never filed with the court are asking for damages from the agency.

Chief Judge Michael Brown told Falgout at last month's hearing that he was concerned with interest accruing on accounts where people were overpaid.

"We are seeing some staggering numbers on overpayments that are now three, four years old," he said. "And so for these folks to bear interest and ongoing interest running at that level ... it's just a significant number for these folks to have to bear."

Falgout said the agency has the ability to waive interest in those cases. She told the judges last month that while the department is responsible for "an egregious error" it wasn't intentional.

"This rather was a rogue employee who took great pains, concocted an elaborate scheme, to conceal these cases so that she could avoid doing the work assigned to her," she said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation & World

Senior student barred from Christian school's graduation because she's pregnant
Senior student barred from Christian school's graduation because she's pregnant

Maddi Runkles is a senior at The Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland. >> Read more trending news With a 4.0 grade point average, athletics commitments and a leadership role in the school’s Key Club, she was all set to graduate this spring. Then came her son, Grayson. Runkles learned she was pregnant in January. The Heritage Academy...
Man ‘dared’ United crews to ‘drag him off’ flight
Man ‘dared’ United crews to ‘drag him off’ flight

People aboard a United Airlines plane chanted “lock him up” as a “disruptive man” was escorted off a flight, authorities said.  The flight from Shanghai to New Jersey was reportedly delayed for hours Sunday because a man allegedly commandeered a row of seats and wouldn’t get out of a seat that wasn’t his, ...
WATCH: Young girl left temporarily paralyzed illustrates dangers of tick bites
WATCH: Young girl left temporarily paralyzed illustrates dangers of tick bites

A 3-year-old girl in Oregon awoke on May 13 to find herself unable to stand or use her arms. >> Read more trending news  Evelyn Lewis’ mother, Amanda Lewis, filmed her daughter’s failed attempts to stand with help from her husband.  WGHP reported that the parents took Evelyn to the emergency room, where a doctor...
The key spending cuts and increases in Trump's budget
The key spending cuts and increases in Trump's budget

The White House released more details of its federal budget proposal on Monday. It includes substantial cuts to Medicaid and other aid to the poor. Because it comes packaged with tax cuts, it assumes the economy will grow faster as a result and ultimately balance the budget by 2027. It is, however, unlikely to pass Congress as is.     ...
Musicians offer support for Ariana Grande, people of Manchester on social media
Musicians offer support for Ariana Grande, people of Manchester on social media

People have been praying and sending positive thoughts to Manchester since Monday night. Shortly after explosions were set off at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, people started sharing their support for the victims and Grande on social media. Her fellow music industry professionals and celebrities, including Cher, Katy Perry, Taylor...
More Stories