The Kansas University Alumni Association owes the U.S. Postal Service more than $31,000 in back postage, Lawrence Postmaster Bill Reynolds said today.
A misunderstanding about the use of the alumni association's non-profit mailing permit with regard to "cooperative mailings" resulted in the underpayment, the postmaster said.
Fred Williams, executive director of the alumni association, said today in a statement that association officials had decided to appeal the Postal Service's assessment of $31,738.
Postal Inspection Service officials in Washington, D.C., confirmed last week an audit of association mailings since January 1988 revealed the deficiency.
REYNOLDS SAID postal inspectors had assured him that there was no evidence to indicate association officials attempted to defraud the government.
Williams and Reynolds agreed that the infractions resulting from 55 individual association mailings were the result of confusion about federal regulations.
"The KU Alumni Association has always operated with the understanding that it was following Postal Service regulations concerning the use of non-profit mailing permits," Williams said.
Williams said KU's alumni association executives were not the only association officials to misinterpret non-profit mailing privileges and receive bills for back postage.
AT LEAST 70 associations were audited by the Postal Service, including the University of Missouri. Several associations were sent bills exceeding $100,000, he said.
Inspectors examined whether alumni groups advertised special trips and merchandise in letters that were mailed at a lower rate reserved for non-profit organizations.
The vacation packages and offers of special merchandise credit cards, watches and lamps, for example were designed to raise money for alumni associations.
According to Postal Service rules involving non-profit cooperative mailings, each organization involved in the mailing was required to have non-profit status.
COOPERATIVE mailings produced by an organization not authorized to mail at the non-profit rate of 8.4 cents a letter should have paid the regular rate of 16.8 cents.
In the case of KU Alumni Association, Reynolds said five travel agencies affiliated with the association shouldn't have been allowed to use the non-profit rate for promotional purposes.
Reynolds said the KU association was financially liable for any back postage. The association can seek reimbursement from the travel agencies, which Reynolds declined to identify.