The Investigators: Former DPW worker unable to pay $100K in restitution

The Investigators: Fmr. DPW worker unable to pay $100K in restitution, likely to come from taxpayers

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Investigators have learned former DPW maintenance worker Keith Harrison cannot afford to pay for the big mess he's accused of making. That's according to the District Attorney's Office.

Police say the 33-year-old brought down power lines and electricity poles in the 17500 block of Florida Blvd. back in December. The damages totaled $100,000.

Harrison was not supposed to be behind the wheel of the truck that drove into them. DPW said he did not have the authority to drive any of its vehicles.

Rick Super heard the crash back on that day in December.

"It sort of sounded like a big firecracker is what it sounded like," said Super, a carpenter at Grabince Custom Divisions on Florida Blvd.

Super was working that day at Grabince. It was one of a couple businesses on Florida that lost power.

"He pulled the whole thing down. All of this, that, and that one over there. All three of them, he pulled them all down right to the ground," said Super.

Police arrested Harrison a couple weeks later. That's also when he was fired, and when the Investigators dug deeper into his past.

The Investigators learned the city hired Harrison despite his criminal record, a long list of charges including manslaughter, which he pleaded guilty to.

"Disturbing that we had employees that did that, we all feel it's an embarrassment to our department," said former DPW Interim Director Bryan Harmon to Lead Investigator Kiran Chawla during an interview on January 9.

The interview seemed to expose that Harrison's record slipped through the cracks when he was hired last fall.

"We're not seeing the information. DPW is hiring off a list being provided to us," said Harmon.

The Investigators called DPW twice Monday requesting another interview, but the calls went unreturned.

In addition to the power line damage, the Investigators report from January also showed that Harrison allegedly stole and sold three loads of limestone worth a total of $3,600.

That misappropriation shows up in a new audit. So does something else the Investigators first reported over a year ago. The dump truck's keys were not properly secured.

The audit says that's how Harrison was able to get behind the wheel.

Harrison's next court date is in November.

In the meantime, the Investigators went looking for him at his Scotlandville home, but no one came to the door Monday. Harrison is out of jail on a $20,000 bond, but as for word that taxpayers will likely now foot the $100,000 bill for last year's big wreck, Super simply says that's not fair.

"It's definitely not right," said Super. "He wasn't even supposed to be doing what he was doing."

Along with Harrison, four other people were fired or have resigned from DPW in connection to this case.

The new audit also lists DPW's plan to assure something like this never happens again. The audit says DPW will now keep vehicle and equipment keys in "secure limited access location," and that "limestone delivery will be made only to designated locations that have controls in place to keep the material secure."

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