Postal Service ends retroactive readdressing; was work of 1 employee
The mystery of the U.S. Postal Service's retroactive address changes appears to have been solved.
Research by Congressman Joel Hefley's Office found that the county-wide changes - including the publicized case in which Westsider Dave Hughes briefly wound up with the same address as his tenant - had been implemented by a postal employee “who was acting without any authorization,” explained Hefley spokesperson Kim Sears.
Under federal law, the Postal Service does not have authority to change existing addresses, added Hefley staff assistant Leigh Ann Shriver. “They only have authorization over zip codes.”
As a result, Shriver said, all retroactive changes in El Paso County will come to a stop, unless county government - which has legal address control - wants the practice to continue. “My understanding is that most people don't want it because it would be expensive,” Shriver said.
The employee was identified as Elaine Medina, whose title is growth management specialist. Postal officials have talked to her about the incident, but she will not lose her job or be punished, according to Al DeSarro, spokesperson for the western area of the Postal Service. He described her actions as a “misunderstanding” and “an honest mistake.”
The readdressing situation became public last month when Hughes went to City Council after the post office told Dona Chon, the new tenant of Hughes' rental cottage, she could not use the legal address of 6 ½ N. 24th St., but instead would have to use 6 - the same as Hughes' house address.
This triggered Hefley's office to investigate, because the Postal Service is governed by federal laws.
According to DeSarro, Medina's misunderstanding stemmed from her attendance at the regular meetings of an informal, multi- agency committee that deals with addressing issues in the county. Other members of the agency have told the Westside Pioneer they were pushing to avoid fractions and other addressing inconsistencies in future construction, but DeSarro said that Medina interpreted this to mean fraction-type addresses should be eliminated whenever there was a new owner or tenant at existing locations.
Another postal spokes-person said last week that 30 addresses had been changed in this manner over the past two years, including 5 in Old Colorado City. DeSarro said his research shows a total of “20 or less,” and that the post office will provide these changes to Regional Building, to allow the option for any or all of them to be changed back.
He said there had been no secrecy in Medina's actions. However, no public announcement had ever been made about the policy, nor, according to area agencies that need such information - Regional Building, City Fire, El Paso-Teller 911 and the County Assessor's Office - were they aware that the Postal Service was changing addresses.
The Pioneer has previously attempted to speak with Medina herself, but was told by her that all comments had to come from a designated postal spokesperson.
The first sign of a new postal policy was the unfettered delivery Feb. 1 of mail to Chon that was addressed to 6 ½ N. 24th. Previously, any such mail had been given a sticker, stating that the recipient needed to tell the sender that the address was actually 6.
“I'm glad that my little problem is solved,” Hughes said. “They just picked on the wrong guy.”
DeSarro was not certain if Hughes' situation was computer-driven - he conceded that the agency's software has a problem recognizing fractions in addresses - or an offshoot of Medina's fraction-elimination efforts. However, he stressed that “the important thing is we're all in agreement now that we're going to proceed with the best interests of the public in the spirit of public safety and accurate mail service.”
Hughes is still puzzled by reports of another kind of address change that has been taking place - requiring existing condo or townhome addresses (such as “500A Smith Road”) to be altered in some cases to “500 Smith Road, Apt. A.” But DeSarro had no information on such practices, and could only say that it is not a national policy.
Westside Pioneer article