State possibly overpaid Portsmouth $1 million for 911 services

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by Philip Townsend, 13News

WVEC.com

Posted on November 5, 2012 at 6:42 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 5 at 7:01 PM

PORTSMOUTH--  The state of Virginia may have overpaid Portsmouth 911 services more than $1 million that the city might have to pay back.

13News uncovered a letter from Portsmouth City Attorney Tim Oksman sent to City Council members Friday and  informing them the city may owe the state more than a $1 million.

According to the letter, the alleged discrepancy stems from an audit by the state's E-911 Services Board, which allocates money to localities based on information provided by a city or county's emergency communications department.

"There is a possibility that (Portsmouth Police Communications) have given some incorrect information to the state," Oksman said in the letter.

Based on the audit, the board has determined that Portsmouth's portion of their grant is the largest alleged overpayment in the state by a significant amount.

The same audit shows Hampton allegedly being overpaid more than $45,000, and all other Hampton Roads localities being underpaid.

The state may owe Chesapeake Police Communications close to $150,000.

The grants go toward 911 systems and help each locality cover personnel, equipment, and information technology costs.

"We're going to use every reasonable professional effort to protect our taxpayers from this million-dollar claim from a state agency," Oksman told council members.

 

Letter from Portsmouth City Attorney to Portsmouth City Council:

Gentlemen and Mrs. Randall:

Unfortunately, I’m sending this message to make you aware of a potentially major financial claim against Portsmouth.

As best we understand, Portsmouth’s 911 system is supported in part by state funding and in part by our own funding.  The state funds are disbursed to us and to many other localities by the “Virginia E-911 Services Board” from a fund created under state law.  They are distributed under a very complex formula.   The Portsmouth Police Communications office provided part of the data to the state for applying the formula.  There is a possibility that they may have given some incorrect information to the state, although there may also have been fault on the state’s side concerning this matter.

The Board has recently audited this grant funding to localities over the past several years.  As a result of the audit, it has concluded that some localities have been overpaid and some have been underpaid.   As to Portsmouth, their conclusion is that we have been overpaid by a very significant amount - - a total of $1,084,126.46 for a multi-year period.  Of all the localities in the entire state - - including very populous localities such as Fairfax, Loudoun County, Henrico, and Chesterfield - - Portsmouth has the absolute largest amount of alleged overpayment.  Some large, wealthy localities such as Virginia Beach and Prince William County were allegedly underpaid and may be entitled to significant additional payments from the state.

If money is actually owed by Portsmouth to the state, it’s not clear at this time how it would be repaid.  It could be through withholding of future 911 grant funds, writing a check or checks back to the state, or some combination of these different methods.

Suffice it to say that Portsmouth does not necessarily accept the conclusion of this state agency about the alleged overpayment.  The state calculations are going to be carefully reviewed, along with the history of how this matter evolved.  If we conclude that we do not owe the state any money, or that we owe a lesser amount, we will assert that position.   We are very early in the process, and so it would be premature for me to try and say what our chances are.  All I can is that we’re going to use every reasonable professional effort to protect our taxpayers from this million-dollar claim from a state agency.

Please call if there are any questions.  Thank you.

Tim

G. Timothy Oksman
 Portsmouth City Attorney
 

 

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