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Minnesota county worker overpaid $18,000. He plans to pay it back.

Wadena County Coordinator Ryan Odden

WADENA, Minn. - Wadena County Commissioners set a $6,000 cap to resolve a payroll error that overpaid its county coordinator more than $18,000 over a seven-month period.

Commissioners were informed about the error Tuesday during the regular commission meeting. The error started happening shortly after Ryan Odden was hired to serve as both county highway engineer and county coordinator, which meant he was receiving two paychecks per period with funds coming from different budgets. Wadena County human resources calculated Odden was being paid an additional $1,200 per pay period.

The result of this overpayment is that Odden plans to pay the amount back in full in one lump sum once the exact number is provided to him, he told commissioners. Commissioners approved hiring Clifton, Larson, Allen out of St. Cloud to perform a forensic investigation of the error and prepare the necessary W-2 and PERA form for Odden, with costs not to exceed $6,000.

County Attorney Kyra Ladd laid out steps the board should take including looking into exactly what happened, and identifying how to make sure it does not happen again. She added that there is no policy in place for the board to handle a error like this.

Members of the public and county attended the meeting to share their concerns about the error putting some blame on Odden, human resources, payroll, auditing and commissioners as well.

Verndale resident, Brian Hagen, Wadena County Recorder Soledad Henriksen and Commissioner Jon Kangas each shared their concern, while saying they did not put blame on Odden, they noted that if they saw an extra $3,000 a month, that they would be going straight to the human resources. Odden did not bring up concerns of his pay because, as he later said, “This is not my error. Payroll told me, ‘this is what you are being paid.’”

He had no reason to doubt that payroll calculated his earnings correctly, he said. And determining exactly what he was being paid was not made easy as he was receiving four different paychecks, punching in using two different employee IDs and being paid from multiple sources within the county budget.

“It’s not a nice clean paycheck,” Odden said. “My paycheck does not say my exact wage.”

It was human resources and the auditor’s office that came to Odden with the situation before speaking to the state auditor about the issue a few weeks ago. It was noted that Odden was making less money in 2019 then he was in 2018. Odden just received his W-2 on Saturday and said the error was obvious. He is eager to pay the amount back in order to avoid paying for taxes on money that he didn’t actually earn.

County Auditor/Treasurer Heather Olson calculated the amount of the gross overpayment to be $18,152. That number was not the same as was determined by the county's human resources department. In order for Odden to pay back the money he said he needs to know the right number. Once he has that, he said he planned to write a check.