McLennan County leaders are looking to implement a new procedure to review payroll status forms after a department head gave himself a $14,000 raise that went uncorrected for months, officials said.

Herschel Miller, county building maintenance department director, paid the county back $5,784.21 this week after the error on the form was discovered.

County Judge Scott Felton said he thinks Miller made an honest mistake.

In September 2015, Miller was promoted to the position with the starting salary of $60,060. Then, in March 2016, commissioners approved increasing Miller’s probationary salary to $70,000, according to county documents. However, when Miller filled out his payroll status form for the fiscal year 2017 budget, which started Oct. 1, 2016, he wrote in a salary of $84,393, Felton said.

Department heads fill out payroll forms by hand for themselves and for their staff, he said. Those forms then are sent to the county auditor’s office, which passes along payroll information to the treasurer’s office to issue the checks, Felton said.

The number Miller wrote in for his salary was listed as the maximum amount someone in the position he holds could make, Felton said.

“He said that he rushed to get everything turned in, saw the number on the sheet that he referenced from and put that number on his slot of what his annual salary would be,” Felton said. “He’s been here for several years, and we had enough faith to make him a department head, and he seems like a good, honest family man, and I trust him.”

The recent discovery was made during department head reviews, which are conducted before county commissioners start budget discussions for the upcoming year. Commissioners plan to start on the 2018 budget at the end of the month.

Salaries of other employees in the department have been double-checked since the discovery to ensure there wasn’t another, similar error, Felton said.

“We’re very confident that everything’s as expected,” he said.

He said the county will work on a policy with the human resources department and the county auditor’s office to ensure there is a process in place to double-check salary information before it is passed along to the treasure’s office.

“We don’t need to be putting our employees in a position of making a mistake and not helping them correct it. We take some blame in this,” Felton said. “Immediately, he asked the auditors department to calculate what he owed, and he wrote a check and we processed that check.”

Miller said it was an honest mistake.

“I felt horrible about it, and I’ve since repaid what was the difference,” he said.

Felton said he could not say whether any other action was taken regarding Miller because department head reviews are still ongoing.

“I hate the fact that there will be people inside and outside this organization that always think if there’s a chance somebody might have done something wrong, they are going to call them guilty without due process,” Felton said.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Kelly Snell said he hasn’t heard any factual information regarding the situation so he does not want to comment.

County Auditor Stan Chambers is out of the office for the rest of the week, according to staff.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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