ZURIK: Former Kenner Official’s timesheet changes show possible cover-up
JEFFERSON PARISH (WVUE) - A highly-paid Kenner employee, who was recently fired, said a clerical error made it look like he was double-dipping while working for the city and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s office.
However, an email trail seems to catch Chad Pitfield in a predicament. FOX 8 uncovered several instances of the now-former City of Kenner Deputy Chief Administrative Officer double-dipping.
That included Nov. 7, 2021. Pitfield said he worked 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., doing street and streetlight assessments. For that work, Pitfield received extra disaster pay from Kenner. Kenner hopes that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse it for that pay.
The same night, Pitfield also claimed to work a paid detail through the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, as a reserve deputy. His timesheet for that detail showed he worked from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., a four-hour overlap with his Kenner timesheet.
When FOX 8 started asking questions, Pitfield made some changes. On February 1, 2022, he sent an email to the Kenner CAO and Chief Financial Officer, noting that he put the incorrect date on the form. He claimed he didn’t work Nov.7 but worked Nov. 3 and that he had initially made a mistake on the date of his timesheet. Pitfield initialed the changes.
FOX 8 then asked the City of Kenner for all records related to Pitfield’s leave and vacation days in November 2021. It shows on Nov. 2, Pitfield sent an email to the CEO and CFO telling them he’d like to take off the next day, Nov. 3. The leave form is signed by Pitfield.
Records indicated it would be impossible for Pitfield to have worked on Nov. 3 instead of Nov. 7, since he asked to take leave on Nov. 3 the day before.
“It was quite a clumsy effort on his part to cover his tracks,” said Tulane Law Professor Joel Friedman.
Friedman said Pitfield could have committed two offenses, double-dipping, and trying to cover it up.
“And he stupidly tried to falsify the data by changing it to a date that didn’t make sense because it was a date in which he couldn’t possibly have worked because he was on vacation,” said Friedman.
In the four months following Hurricane Ida, Pitfield made $86,000 in disaster pay. Initially, Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn defended the pay when asked if he believed Pitfield worked all the hours he said he did.
“Absolutely,” said Zahn. “I mean, the people that surround myself and my administration that I’ve chosen, I trust. I trust that what they’re turning in is absolutely correct.”
However, since then, Zahn fired Pitfield. Friedman said it still raises questions. Zahn’s CAO Deborah Foshee received both the email that Pitfield was taking a vacation on Nov. 3, and the email that he changed his double-dipping timesheet to reflect that he worked on that day.
Friedman said he wonders if Foshee and others tried to ignore the possible cover-up.
“The fact that this goes on and that the city of Kenner let him change the date and didn’t go and check and say, ‘Hey, Chad, you changed the day to a day when you’re on vacation.’ Nobody’s caring. Nobody’s checking at the city of Kenner. It’s a cesspool of corruption or at least incompetence,” said Friedman.
The two dates Pitfield claimed he confused were in different pay periods. The first was on the timesheet for Oct. 23-Nov. 5. The second was on Nov. 6-Nov. 19 timesheet. That means Pitfield was paid for any work done on Nov. 3 two weeks before being paid for the Nov. 7 date that he changed his timesheet to.
In a statement, the City of Kenner says, “Mr. Pitfield reported that he discovered errors in his time records and submitted handwritten corrections. That information was reported under the Public Records Request from Mr. Zurik. Following proper procedure, that information was forwarded for further review and it was discovered that the proposed changes would have created double billing for work and leave. Mr. Pitfield was subsequently terminated and his payroll records remain under review.”
Pitfield resigned from his JPSO duties after FOX 8 started asking questions. Pitfield’s attorney, Brian Capitelli, told FOX 8 Pitfield took the day off but worked that night. He says Pitfield worked hard day and night for the residents of Kenner while he was employed.
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