Documents say high-paid school administrator rarely at work; he disputes claims
PLAQUEMINE- Serious questions are being raised after the WBRZ Investigative Unit obtained payroll records for a high-ranking administrator at the Iberville Parish School Board that show he rarely reports to work.
In 2017, the school system adopted a policy requiring that time and attendance be tracked, according to Superintendent Arthur Joffrion. Human resources sent out an email alerting all school district employees to begin using a time clock. That time clock was the mechanism to follow the policy, according to Joffrion.
School Board Member Darlene Ourso said she began getting complaints from employees last year and filed a public records request for punch-in and punch-out times for Paul Distefano, the parish's athletic director. WBRZ heard those same complaints and filed a public records request too which revealed Distefano just began using the timeclock last November, and his use of the time clock is sporadic at best.
"I was told by human resource lawyers that once you put your finger on the clock, you should be paid by the hour," Distefano told WBRZ. "The school wouldn't want to do that."
Distefano said he is constantly working and constantly forgetting to use the clock. He admitted he does not track his hours. Distefano makes nearly $90,000 annually. He called the time clock demoralizing.
"Matter of fact Chris, I forgot to clock in this morning," Distefano said. "I've been here all day."
According to the payroll records, on some days the WBRZ Investigative Unit found Distefano clocked in, and clocked out one minute later.
"Probably just me being silly," Distefano said. "Trying to get someone's attention."
But, those sloppy records did not get the attention of central office. Payroll records show despite only working a minute on January 10, 2020, Distefano was paid for a full day. In addition to that, there were other times where Distefano did not clock in at all and did not use paid time off.
Distefano called this mess political. He said his aunt is president of the school board, and people are mad at her for questioning COVID-19 overtime pay for certain employees.
"It's a direct shot at her too," Distefano said.
Iberville Parish School Board Member Darlene Ourso said employees began complaining to her about this last year.
"Coworkers of Mr. Distefano had expressed to me that they didn't know if he was reporting to work, clocking in our out," Ourso said.
According to Ourso, the school board spent more than $100,000 on time clocks for the employees to begin tracking their time. She said for employees not to use them is a waste of taxpayer money, and it's compounded by a lack of checks and balances at central office.
"My biggest concern is we want to make sure our employees are held accountable," Ourso said. "If one employee is forced to clock in and out, all of our employees should have to."
Distefano said no time clock will accurately reflect the hours he actually works.
"If I lose my job over this time clock, I'll get with the next head coach and try to work with the kids," Distefano said. "I'll be here in Plaquemine until the day I die."
Meanwhile, he had this message for the person who turned him in.
"It's time for love and peace and happiness in this world," Distefano said. "Let go of hatred. I don't know what I've done to some of these people. Sometimes I speak my mind. Maybe they don't like to hear that sometimes."
Prior to being names parish-wide athletic director, Distefano said he served as a school board member for 18 years.
Superintendent Arthur Joffrion said over the phone that every employee in the district should be using the time clocks. He would not discuss any individual citing personnel matters.