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L.A. Unified offers help centers to fix pay issues

Times Staff Writer

A slowly improving but still-sputtering payroll system has prompted Los Angeles school district officials to set up regional help centers to spare employees the new and unwelcome ritual of tromping downtown to get paid.

Two staffers will be housed in each of eight regional offices of the Los Angeles Unified School District to resolve payroll problems no later than mid-May, officials said Wednesday.

That’s about five months too late as far as thousands of employees are concerned.

“I have spent no fewer than 15 hours a week on the telephone and on e-mail trying to straighten out my payroll difficulties since the first week in February,” said Linda Levine, a district retiree who fills in as a substitute school psychologist.

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“In February I was not paid at all,” she said.

Her tale is one of many, but even at this late date the school system cannot say precisely how many are affected.

Supt. David L. Brewer said he met this week with two primary contractors of the $95-million system, Deloitte and SAP, asking them to fix software flaws and shortcomings in training.

“Timely, accurate salary payment is one of the ways we acknowledge your value,” Brewer said Wednesday in a letter of apology to employees. “You should not have to worry about whether your paycheck will arrive.”

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In an interview, Brewer said $7 million in “out-of-cycle” checks were cut for people paid incorrectly in January. By March, that figure had dropped to $1 million, he said.

United Teachers Los Angeles filed suit last month over the snafus. Brewer said the litigation was “unnecessary and takes up energy and resources we need to solve the problems.”

The school system also has offered emergency loans, restitution of bank fees and help resolving credit problems. A hotline was so overwhelmed, however, that such help was not quickly forthcoming. Even Wednesday, angry workers lined up outside a help center on the first floor.

“I’m trying to get paid, and they don’t like my behavior,” said retiree Charles Hartman of Camarillo, after taking off his socks and shoes in protest at having to wait all day for help. “They say I might be arrested. I don’t know what to say about that: a 65-year-old guy getting arrested for asking for pay they say they owe me. That’s pretty sad.”

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howard.blume@latimes.com


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