United States Capitol Police--Cost of Living Payments
B-310004, Dec 3, 2007
The United States Capitol Police (USCP) was authorized to make a lump sum payment on April 12, 2007, for a cost of living adjustment effective the first pay period of 2007. USCP regulations specifically authorize such payments following approval by the House Committee on House Administration and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. USCP received approval from these committees prior to making the payment. The delay in implementing the adjustment was due to the fact that the Senate Committee withheld its approval pending enactment of funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2007. The Senate Committee, however, recognized that the adjustment was forthcoming and would be effective as of the first pay period of 2007.
B-310004, United States Capitol Police--Cost of Living Payments, December 3, 2007
The United States Capitol Police (USCP) was authorized to make a lump sum payment on
The Inspector General for the United States Capitol Police (USCP) has requested a decision regarding USCP's payment of a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for its uniformed members and civilian employees (eligible employees). Letter from Carl W. Hoecker, Inspector General, USCP, to Gary L. Kepplinger, General Counsel, GAO, Subject: Request for Comptroller General Decision, Aug. 8, 2007 (Hoecker Letter). Specifically, the Inspector General (IG) asks whether USCP properly made a lump sum COLA payment to eligible employees on
The Capitol Police Board (Board) is responsible for establishing and maintaining rates and schedules of basic pay for eligible employees. 2 U.S.C. sect. 1923(a)(1). Pursuant to this duty, the Board maintains the Capitol Police Board Resolution for Unified Schedules of Rates of Basic Pay for Members and Civilian Employees of the United States Capitol Police (Board Resolution). The Board may adjust the Board Resolution as it sees fit to reflect changes in the cost of living and to maintain pay comparability. 2 U.S.C. sect. 1923(a)(2). Such changes may take effect only after approval by the House Committee on House Administration and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration (the committees). 2 U.S.C. sect. 1923(a)(3). The Board Resolution provides that, subject to committee approval, the Board may adjust basic pay for eligible employees effective at the beginning of the first applicable pay period beginning on or after the first day of the month in which an adjustment becomes effective [for federal employees under a statutory pay system] under section 5303 of title 5, United States Code. Board Resolution, sections (a)3(A), (b)3(A).
On December 27, 2006, the Board submitted to the committees a proposal to increase pay for eligible employees by 2.64 percent, consistent with the President's order under 5 U.S.C. sect. 5303, in accordance with sections (a)3 and (b)3 of the Board Resolution. Letter from Wilson Livingood, Chairman, Board, to the Honorable Vernon Ehlers, Chairman, House Committee on House Administration, Dec. 27, 2006 (Livingood Letter); Letter from William H. Pickle, Sergeant at Arms and Member of the Board, to the Honorable Trent Lott, Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, Dec. 27, 2006 (Lott Letter). The House Committee approved the proposal on
As a general matter, employees' pay adjustments are prospective. B-252215,
However, when implementation of an otherwise prospective pay adjustment is delayed under statutorily authorized procedures, the pay adjustment may cover past pay periods so long as there is recognition of the effective date, notwithstanding the delay, and payments do not cover pay periods preceding that effective date. For example, on
As discussed above, Congress has charged the Board with responsibility for establishing and maintaining the pay system for eligible employees, and specified that the Board may make changes to the pay schedules as the Board sees fit to reflect changes in the cost of living. 2 U.S.C. sect. 1923(a). Pursuant to this duty, the Board established and maintains the Board Resolution. The Board Resolution provides that when a COLA becomes effective for federal employees under a statutory pay system, the Board may grant a similar adjustment to eligible USCP employees, subject to committee approval. Board Resolution, sections (a)3(A), (b)3(A). An approved COLA becomes effective at the beginning of the first applicable pay period beginning on or after the first day of the month in which an adjustment becomes effective for statutory pay system employees.
Following the President's grant of a COLA to federal employees under 5 U.S.C. sect. 5303, the Board submitted its proposed COLA to the committees via letter on
The House Committee returned the letter to the Board stamped approved, initialed by the Chairman, and dated
USCP's General Counsel raised concerns whether USCP had authority to make the payments effective January 7, because the Board's letters to the committees requesting approval of the COLA payment did not explicitly advise that payment would be effective
As noted above, the letters themselves indicated that the Board planned to make pay adjustments [u]nder section (a)3 and [u]nder section (b)3 of the Board Resolution. Livingood Letter; Feinstein Letter. These sections of the Board Resolution provide that adjustments to USCP pay schedules, such as COLAs, become effective at the beginning of the first applicable pay period beginning on or after the first day of the month in which an adjustment becomes effective for statutory pay system employees. Board Resolution, sections (a)3(A), (b)3(A). We think that because the letters referred to these specific provisions of the Board Resolution, the committees were alerted that, with their approval, the Board would make the COLA payments effective
USCP was authorized to make COLA payments effective
Gary L. Kepplinger
 The Board's purpose is to oversee USCP and coordinate USCP's law enforcement activities with the Sergeants at Arms of the House and Senate. Consolidated Appropriations Resolution, 2003, Pub. L. No. 108-7, sect. 1014, 117 Stat. 11, 361 (
 Section 5303 provides for yearly COLAs for civilian executive branch employees.
 Our practice when rendering decisions is to obtain the views of the relevant federal agencies. GAO, Procedures and Practices for Legal Decisions and Opinions, GAO-06-1064SP (
 Based on interviews with Committee staff, the IG in his August 2007 report determined that, in fact, the Committee had understood that the adjustment would be effective in January. IG Report, at 2, 4.
 On February 28, subsequent to enactment of the Continuing Resolution for the remainder of fiscal year 2007, the Chairman of the Senate Committee signed approved on the February 23 letter from USCP to the Committee regarding the COLA. Feinstein Letter. This letter, too, referred to sections (a)3 and (b)3 of the Board Resolution.