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Town workers leave checks uncashed Tuesday, March 7, 2006
David McLaughlin 508-626-4338 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Either a lot of forgetful town employees are out there or more than a few can get by without a paycheck.

The town is sitting on more than $400,000 in uncashed checks going back years, including many payroll checks -- all of it waiting to be deposited or cashed.

On one list of payroll checks issued in 2004, they range from 99 cents to $1,528.

"There are a thousand reasons why. I don't know why," Treasurer Dennis O'Neil said when asked why so many checks have been forgotten.  "We've got employees who don't always cash their paychecks."

The total amount of money is made up of payroll checks and accounts payable funds, which could range from magazine subscriptions at the library to services paid for by the town.

There is nearly $40,000 in unclaimed paychecks from 2005.  That's made up of 147 checks belonging to only 67 people, according to O'Neil.

One employee sitting on $163.85 from 2004 is John Coleman, an elementary school teacher.  Reached at home last night, his wife, who declined to give her name, said they simply forgot about the money.

"We were contacted at one point, and we dropped it due to the fact that we're always so busy," she said.

O'Neil's office is warning people like Coleman the checks won't be good forever.  Based on a state law passed in 2003, the town is allowed to keep the money after following a notification process, O'Neil said.

The treasurer's office has asked the state Department of Revenue to clarify exactly when people and businesses would forfeit the money.

That could mean an infusion of new revenue into the town's strained budget, but just how much is unclear.  The amount is likely to be reduced from the total of outstanding checks as the town reaches out to the owners.

But O'Neil estimated the town could pocket more than $250,000 at least from payroll and accounts payable checks issued before 2003 and going back 20 years or more.

It is unlikely, O'Neil said, those owners are going to show up looking for their money.  But if they do, the town will still pay.

"If somebody showed up today with an uncashed check, I would honor that check on behalf of the town," he said.

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