Mayor Justin Elicker and Police Chief Karl Jacobson Friday. Nora Grace-Flood / New Haven Independent

A 12-year veteran city employee turned herself in Friday after the mayor and police chief held a press conference announcing a warrant for her arrest for allegedly falsifying timesheets and stealing over $11,400 in overtime in her most recent role as a Building Department executive administrative assistant.

Mayor Justin Elicker announced that arrest warrant at a Friday afternoon press conference held on the second floor of City Hall.

Standing alongside Police Chief Karl Jacobson and Chief Administrative Officer Regina Rush-Kittle, Elicker said that on April 6, city police secured an arrest warrant for 57-year-old New Havener Dennice Pair, who also goes by Denise, for one felony count of first-degree larceny.

Elicker said that Pair, in her most recent job as an executive administrative assistant in the city’s Office of Building Inspection & Enforcement, allegedly falsified her work timesheet’s overtime records to steal over $11,400 in the first four months of this fiscal year, which began in July. 

She was put on administrative leave in November when the city’s budget department identified a ​“disproportionate” amount of overtime being paid to this one worker. Police then completed their investigation and got a warrant for her arrest last Thursday.

The mayor added that Pair has worked for the city — first in the transportation department, and then in the building department as of 2013 — for 12 years and has earned over $145,000 in overtime in that time. He said it is ​“probable” that some of that paid overtime was also fraudulently incurred. 

Elicker said the city will conduct a “Loudermill hearing” with her and determine whether she should be fired. Pair could not be reached for comment.

At 4:39 p.m. Friday, city police spokesperson Capt. Rose Dell sent out an email press release stating that Pair turned herself in to the New Haven Police Department Friday afternoon. The warrant was served and she has a court-set bond of $5,000.

Elicker said that, before last October, all city employees had to fill out their own timesheets, which include sections for sick time, vacation time and overtime. A department supervisor then signed off on those timesheets and passed them along to a point person in the department, who entered the information into a municipal employee accounting system.

In the Building Department, that point person was Pair. Allegedly, after her department’s supervisor signed off on timesheets and gave them to Pair to enter, she falsified her own overtime numbers before entering them into the payroll system.

Starting last October, Elicker said, the city’s budget office put in place a stricter set of overtime oversight guidelines. That included breaking down overtime amounts for review not just by department but by individual employee. When that was done, the budget office pretty quickly found that Pair’s overtime didn’t look right.

In response to this case of alleged theft, Elicker said, the city is changing how it oversees overtime filings — including by requiring supervisors to review records after they’ve been entered into the payroll system, and not just before. 

“Like in every workplace, unfortunately, there are some individuals that fail to meet professional responsibilities and expectations that we have for them,” the mayor said. ​“That is true in city government as well.”

The three Democratic challengers seeking to unseat two-term incumbent Elicker in this year’s mayoral election jumped on Friday’s announcement as indicative of what they described as poor management at City Hall.

“This is just the latest incident that calls into question the administration’s managerial competence,” former federal prosecutor and legal aid attorney Liam Brennan said in an email comment. ​“From schools to parks, the police department to the civilian review board, the city is in need of new leadership.”

This incident is ​“yet another testament to a poorly run, top-down government at City Hall,” former city police sergeant Shafiq Abdussabur said in a campaign fundraising email. ​“I’m sick of these headlines. With City staff dwindling and low morale, all-time record lows for our school system, and violent crime on the rise, it will take a strong leader to build the bridges needed for New Haven to flourish. We deserve a Mayor to unite and inspire New Haven from the bottom up.”

And in his own email statement, former McKinsey consultant Tom Goldenberg said that Elicker ​“has failed to live up to his promise of a well-run City Hall — we have not had a confirmed City Controller since March 2020, more than three years ago. This is in violation of the charter-mandated six months, which in and of itself puts the city on shaky legal ground. This also shows a pattern of an inability to attract and retain professional talent.”

Elicker responded to those mayoral-challenger jabs with the following: ​“We’re holding people accountable, and thanks to new financial controls, we are stopping fraud and abuse. It’s easy to talk and throw rocks from the outside. It’s another thing to take action.”

This story was first published April 14, 2023 by New Haven Independent.