The former maintenance supervisor for Baker public schools was booked Thursday night in parish prison for the second time in four months, this time accused of buying without permission and stealing 717 items worth an estimated $128,000, enough apparently to stock a section of a Home Depot.
The unauthorized purchases range from a gazebo to 117 window-unit air conditioners. Baker Police report they have yet to find any of the missing items.
Emmitt Whitfield’s path to criminal court started with a $450 tree trimmer, property of the city of Baker school system, that Whitfield’s wife pawned last summer. The alleged theft, for which the couple was arrested in early December, was uncovered after an East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy bought the saw, but started his own investigation when he found the saw was missing a crucial screw.
Whitfield soon resigned his job as maintenance supervisor.
The Baker school system and the Baker Police Department reviewed purchases made by Whitfield from 2012 to 2014 to see which items were still in the school system’s possession, conducting inventories at the maintenance shop and all Baker schools, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
The audit uncovered 717 unauthorized purchases that Whitfield made using a school system-issued credit card that was in his name, according to the affidavit.
Superintendent Ulysses Joseph, Whitfield’s supervisor, told police he was not aware of the purchases and said Whitfield ignored the system’s purchasing policy.
The Advocate left messages with Joseph on Friday afternoon seeking comment.
Auditors uncovered a long list of still-to-be-found items that Whitfield purchased on the credit card: 110 folding tables, 24 shop fans, 21 lawn mowers, 17 saws, 17 portable shop generators, four indoor fireplaces, two novelty disco globes, as well as a decorative lawn fountain and an outdoor pit.
Whitfield, 47, 514 Myrtle St., Baker, faces counts of felony theft and unauthorized use of an access card. He was released Friday on $60,000 bond.
The Advocate called his phone number, and the woman who answered took a message but said Whitfield did not want to talk.
In its arrest report on the theft of the tree trimmer, Baker Police say Whitfield admitted to Joseph that he participated in the theft and pawning of the item, explaining that the couple had been suffering financial troubles.
Just a day before he was arrested, Baton Rouge Family Court Judge Charlene Day granted Whitfield a divorce from his wife, Queena, after she failed to respond to his divorce petition. In the petition, the husband gave no reasons for seeking the divorce but said the two had been separated since May. He reported his residence as an apartment on Greenwell Springs Road.
Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.