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Years after approving promotions and raises, Colorado Department of Corrections now requiring repayment

Years after approving promotions, Colorado Dept. of Corrections now require repayment
Years after approving promotions, Colorado Dept. of Corrections now require repayment 05:40

Years after receiving promotions and a pay increase that some Colorado Department of Corrections employees expected, they're now being told a mistake was made.

Not only are they now having their pay reduced, but they say the state is demanding they repay that money.

Two of the affected employees agreed to speak with CBS News Colorado anonymously, but say their decision to take jobs as parole officers isn't one they made lightly. We're identifying them as "Anonymous Employee One" and "Anonymous Employee Two."

Just last fall, a parole officer was killed while trying to contact a suspect.

"This isn't a safe job?" CBS News Colorado reporter Karen Morfitt asked.

"It's not. It's not safe at all. We go out here every day, put our lives on the line dealing with parolees, convicted felons," Anonymous Employee One said.

For the two of them, it was a risk worth taking.

In a 2013 Getty Images file photo, a Colorado parole officer gets ready to knock on the apartment door of a parolee, where he is making a non-scheduled home visit in Englewood. Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

"I missed a lot of family get-togethers and birthdays for the last 10 years prior to going to parole so that was a very big determining factor," Anonymous Employee Two said.

"Everything I do is to take care of my family," Anonymous Employee One added.

It was also a promotion, that both were told would come with a significant pay increase.

"I was told that I would be getting that 10% increase and that was my deciding factor on getting the parole position," Anonymous Employee One said."

"So, you distinctly remember?" CBS reporter Karen Morfitt asked.

"Distinctly, yes ma'am," he responded.

"It was discussed that this was a promotion within DOC, the standard common practice when given a promotion is a 10% raise and that was my understanding," Anonymous Employee Two added.

In November, years after settling into their new roles, they received a letter from the Colorado Department of Corrections Director of Human Resources that said from day one they were overpaid and that effective immediately it would be corrected.

Costing the two employees $300 to $500 every month from their pay.

"We structure our lives around our paycheck and pay that we had been receiving for a year and a half," Anonymous Employee Two added.

Both launched internal grievances that put the changes on hold until January when the department sent a second notice with a decision.

Arriving just before their checks were issued.

"No time to plan, talk to creditors to get things in order lined up to pay bills, my account immediately went to the negative I ended up having to get friends, co-workers help me out to take care of bills and things of that nature. Food pantries," Anonymous Employee One said.

That second notice also included new information that the workers would also have to pay back the overpayments, nearly $8,000 each.

"You take a job you get assured you are going to get paid a certain thing just to find out that you're not and then you owe the state more money," Anonymous Employee Two said.

Internal Department of Correction emails confirm someone on their staff made a clerical mistake, saying, "Unfortunately, the error was made by the ESU technician in both cases."

The response from the Director of Human Resources was, "I'm wondering if we can show they should have known they were making more?"

The answer from her team: "We do not complete promotion letters in HR or anything to the employees stating their new salary."

What the CDOC does have is a referral letter saying neither employee says they saw until their grievance hearings.

That referral letter includes a new hire salary of $5,023 a month. At that rate the promotional pay increase would have been just short of $50 a month; an amount both employees say would not be worth the risk.

"It's a huge surprise. When you make that transition from a facility to a parole officer you are essentially taking on ten times the workload ten times the responsibility and a lot more danger in your position," Anonymous Employee Two said.

When asked about why the employees would be liable for a department mistake a spokesperson said "The State of Colorado fiscal rules have clear protocols regarding overpayments to state employees."

For those families now struggling with how to make ends meet, it's a sign of a bigger problem within the department and their struggle to hire and retain new employees.

"This sets a bad precedent on how to treat your employees who have given you a lot of time and years through promotions furthering their careers trying to better the department," Anonymous Employee Two said.

The employees we spoke with were hired months apart, and one of them transferred offices meaning his pay raise was approved twice.

A spokesperson for CDOC says they are currently engaged in an internal audit to identify and advise any staff members affected by wage overpayments.

They say five cases were identified and reviewed to determine the most suitable repayment plan for the individuals involved, but it's not yet clear how many employees are impacted in total. The agency says it reaffirms its dedication to working alongside affected employees to request repayment arrangements.

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