Zurik: Kenner overpaid for post-Ida Trash pickup, documents indicate

Updated: Mar. 10, 2022 at 10:05 PM CST
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KENNER (WVUE) - A retired Certified Public Accountant believes the city of Kenner overpaid hundreds of thousands of dollars for trash pick-up in the months after Hurricane Ida. It comes after FOX 8 dug into invoices that show discrepancies, and asked questions about the oversight for the payments to Kenner’s garbage contractor, IV Waste.

In the months following Ida, Kenner paid IV Waste more than $584,000. IV Waste claimed it earned the money in addition to its regular trash collection rate because it was helping with post-Ida trash pick-up.

However, Pat Lynch, who recently retired after working as a CPA for more than 40 years, reviewed records from IV Waste and Kenner, and believes the company overcharged the city.

“It appears that they charged more than they should have,” said Lynch. “It’s like everything else. There’s no free lunch, so somebody is paying for it.”

IV Waste has a clause in its contract that allows Kenner to execute what’s called “special collection of bagged organic matters.” Three industry experts tell FOX 8 that’s the extra residential trash that piles up after storms.

Invoices show IV billed Kenner $584,000 for 9,500 extra tons of trash. But, when those numbers are compared to other parishes that were hit even harder by Ida, the Kenner numbers don’t seem to make sense. Neighboring St. Charles Parish paid $92,000 for 738 extra tons. Terrebonne Parish paid $35,000 for 279 extra tons.

A further review of the paperwork shows more discrepancies. IV Waste sent a list of how much extra tonnage it delivered to the landfill daily. IV charged Kenner a rate of $61.17 per ton.

On Sept. 9, 2021, IV claims it delivered 453.86 tons to the landfill. FOX 8 reviewed landfill records that show the landfill only received 404 tons that day. That would mean IV billed Kenner for 49 more tons that it delivered to the landfill that day. The tonnage rate should include anything more than the normal garbage IV already gets paid to pick up.

FOX 8 found several other days with the same discrepancy. That includes Oct. 10, when IV billed for 119 tons, but records show only 110 tons were dumped.

There are other discrepancies as well. On Sept. 12, IV charged Kenner for nearly 52 tons dropped off to the landfill, but Kenner invoices from the landfill show IV didn’t bring any trucks assigned to Kenner to the landfill that day. Kenner was billed $3,200 for trash that doesn’t appear to be dropped off that day.

FOX 8 asked Kenner for backup documentation to support over $500,000 in disaster payments, but Kenner hasn’t handed it over.

Records show Kenner signed off on the invoices, despite the missing backup information. The employee responsible for approving them was former Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Chad Pitfield. He was recently fired for possible payroll fraud and falsifying public documents. While working for Kenner, Pitfield not only signed off on payments to IV Waste, but sources tell FOX 8 he also set up IV Waste’s Instagram account and had a company email address.

The extra provision in the contract allowed IV Waste to bill Kenner up to $200,000. After that, the company needed city approval to earn more. Emails show when IV Waste asked for a few increases to the maximum allowed, Pitfield signed off via email, without asking many questions about the payments.

IV owner Sidney Torres declined FOX 8′s request for an interview, but released a statement that says, in part:

“IV Waste has complied with its contract with Kenner in every way and has billed appropriately. Even in the chaotic conditions created by Ida, all work and every charge to Kenner was approved by Kenner officials. When other residents of the area were watching piles of garbage and storm debris quickly grow in front of their homes and businesses and complaining about it, IV Waste was the first garbage contractor collecting and hauling.”

However, comparisons to other hard-hit areas raise questions about whether Kenner looked out for taxpayers. Under the special provision in the contract, Kenner paid IV Waste nearly double the amount in post-Ida trash compared to the rest of Jefferson Parish.

When broken down by household, the Jefferson Parish contractor, which services all the parish except Kenner, billed $11.50 per household. Meantime, IV Waste billed more than $25 per Kenner household.

Lynch says the examples are more signs that the numbers don’t make sense.

“So, is it a complete foul-up? Or is there something intentional? I couldn’t say one way or the other based on what I’ve seen,” said Lynch.

But he says the issues need to be straightened out.

“The city needs to get their internal audit department in and look at the records and sit down across the table after they’ve done that with IV and try to resolve it,” he said.

The statement from IV Waste also says “to compare the work of contractors in rural St. Charles and Terrebonne Parishes, to the work necessary to continually clean the streets of a very densely populated urban area like Kenner is beyond unfair. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.”

Regarding the days when IV claimed it delivered more tonnage to the landfill than the landfill received, IV sent a number of documents to FOX 8, but none of the calculations they made cleared up the discrepancies.

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