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Poof! goes state workers' phantom bonuses

Call it the Phantom Halloween Bonus, more trick than treat.

As the holidays approach and the recession continues its vice-like grip on Florida's economy, hundreds of state workers on Wednesday were tantalized with the prospect of a $1,000 bonus -- only to learn it was a major computer glitch from the department that Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink oversees.

Now you see the money, now you don't.

The phantom bonuses appeared in the electronic pay statements that state workers access online. The state pays many employees at the end of each month, transferring the four weeks of pay to workers' bank accounts. So as some of those employees on Wednesday started checking online in anticipation of this week's payout, they were surprised to see what looked like a $1,000 bonus. An estimated 1,600 workers were affected.

Jaryn Emhof, spokeswoman for the Senate, where about 200 staffers' electronic stubs show the bonuses, said the problem appears to have originated from the Department of Financial Services, which falls under Sink.

Sink's spokeswoman, Kyra Jennings, said the agency was informed of the error today and is working to ensure that no one is paid extra. She said that, as of right now, the agency isn't sure how it happened.

"Because we found it now, we can stop it now before it goes to the next step and money is routed to employees' bank accounts," Emhof said.

To which a state employee who thought they were getting a bonus might say: "Boooo! Curse on you,