Baker School thefts lead to questions about superintendent
BAKER - Baker School System Superintendent Ulysses Joseph plans to retire in May. At the same time, questions have risen about his role in the alleged illegal purchases of a former employee.
Emmitt Lee Whitfield was a maintenance supervisor for the school system until his original arrest in December 2014. Thursday Whitfield was again charged with felony theft for charging $127,000 worth of purchases on a school-issued credit-card from December 2012 to December 2014.
According to the affidavit, the purchases were: 2 novelty disco globes, 1 residential lawn fountain, 1 gazebos, 3 Coca-Cola mini refrigerators, 1 set of vanity bathroom lights, 117 window air-conditioners, 21 push lawn mowers, 17 assorted saws, an assortment of manual tools, 24 large shop fans, 9 air compressors, 17 portable shop generators, 110 folding tables, 30 folding chairs, 11 lanterns, 2 kitchen sinks, 1 kitchen stove, and 1 microwave oven.
Lieutenant Greg Brown with Baker Police said Joseph was Whitfield's direct supervisor and responsible for signing off on the purchases. Brown said they're still investigating whether other employees in the school system were in on the spending binge, and they're looking into other purchases Whitfield made at the school.
"There's a purchasing procedure that was not followed," said Brown, "as a result of that, Mr. Whitfield basically went on a shopping spree for over two years."
Brown said the investigation into the alleged illegal purchases began after Whitfield and his wife were arrested in December 2014 for felony theft. Investigators said Whitfield had pawned a pole-saw, which an East Baton Rouge Sheriff's deputy bought and discovered was actually the property of the Baker School System.
Brown said that if the deputy had not become involved through sheer chance, Whitfield would still be making illegal purchases.
Joseph did not agree to do an interview for this story but the president of the Baker School board, Elaine Davis, said the board has strengthened is oversight procedures and is working to get the system's money returned.