An internal investigator’s findings were troubling: Month after month, a top doctor at LSU’s Health Sciences Center reported hours of work he didn’t do.
Instead, Alan Kaye, who earned a six-figure salary as the center’s chief anesthesiologist in New Orleans, took paid gigs for work unrelated to LSU during his college days. , the survey revealed. He also said he showed up for work as he criss-crossed the country, accepting free trips to conferences hosted by outside groups.
The survey reported over 320 hours, or 40 working days, in 2017; between 2015 and 2016, he was absent for nearly 160 hours for which he was paid. Kaye also used LSU’s conference rooms for depositions when he was hired as an expert in legal affairs.
The moves were a violation of LSU policies and, apparently, state law, an investigator wrote in August 2018.
Yet LSU has never contacted law enforcement, despite a university policy that requires the administration to do so when auditors uncover potential financial crimes.
A university spokesperson said LSU Health in New Orleans intended to remove Kaye as head of the anesthesiology department, but never did. Instead, they accepted the “few hundred hours” of leave that Kaye said he gave back to the school.
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Kaye left New Orleans in 2019 and has since landed an even more prestigious position at LSU — provost of its Shreveport medical campus. In this role, he earns more than $776,000 a year, making him one of the highest paid employees in the system, according to records.
Kaye said his “timesheet mistakes” were nothing more than honest mistakes. He insisted that he was a salaried employee, not an hourly one, so he couldn’t stand earning extra pay by reporting false hours.
“I didn’t get a dollar more for what I put or didn’t put in,” Kaye said.
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“When you are the head of a clinical department, you are responsible for your workers, residents and departmental issues 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and you are not an hourly worker,” he added.
Still, the matter is serious — potentially criminal — if Kaye misrepresented his time and was so absent he failed to fulfill his job responsibilities, said Pat Fanning, Gretna’s attorney and former state and federal prosecutor. .
“If he was supposed to be a full-time employee and on the other hand he was only there one day a week, then you might have a case of fraud,” Fanning said.
In 2018, Kaye — inducted into the LSU Health in Anesthesia Hall of Fame in New Orleans in 2007 — was in his 13th year as department chair. He divided his time between his administrative duties at LSU and his work at the University Medical Center, where he was director of anesthesia. LSU paid for its time at UMC.
He and other doctors at LSU filled out time sheets to track their time at hospitals for billing and other reporting purposes.
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Through his multiple roles, he earned more than $400,000 a year, he said. He said he never missed an operation and did not work overtime as a salaried employee, although he often worked seven days a week.
An anonymous complaint painted a different picture: Kaye was being paid for his time at UMC, even though he was “rarely” there.
The ensuing investigation reported nearly 40 instances of Kaye being out of state on workdays, even though he reported the opposite on his timesheets and did not take time off.
Some trips seemed related to his work, such as meetings on anesthetics organized by the United States Food and Drug Administration in Maryland. Others had a less clear objective.
Investigators obtained phone records suggesting Kaye criss-crossed the country in 2017, when he was out of state during work hours at least once a month from April through November. Among its stops: Charleston, South Carolina; Boulder, Colorado; Houston; Los Angeles.
He never had to detail the explanations for these trips to the investigators. Asked about them by a reporter, Kaye said, “They were professional and personal.” He declined to elaborate.
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In another case, a business executive told investigators that Kaye used university lecture halls for his side gig as a legal expert, a job that required him to give depositions.
On a Wednesday afternoon in 2017, Kaye used a conference room for a deposition in a case where he was held at a rate of $1,000 an hour, investigators wrote. He also charged the law firm for the use of the room, an additional fee of $200 to pay him.
On his timesheet, he logged eight hours at UMC.
Kaye said he reimbursed room charges to LSU after the investigation. The law firm stiffened him and he won no money in this case, he added.
In November 2017, Kaye reported regular hours at UMC while in Baltimore for a paid consulting gig with the Society of Research Administrators International, the university’s investigation found. Kaye won $1,250 plus airfare, accommodations, transportation and meals.
In a three-page response to investigators, Kaye acknowledged these and other discrepancies.
“Errors in my timesheets must be corrected immediately to be consistent with our rules and policies,” he wrote. He added that he worked without a secretary and that the commercial director of his department was absent from the office.
“That’s no excuse, but some of my timesheet errors could have been caught if our business manager hadn’t been on intermittent sick leave for the past few years,” he said.
Investigators included Kaye’s response to their August 2018 report, along with more than 180 pages of backup documentation. The Times-Picayune | The attorney obtained the report through a public records request.
The first page summarized the findings: “At a minimum,” Kaye violated a state law against tampering with public records. The report also cited state prohibitions on lending public property to private use and receiving payments for services that were not provided. He also violated LSU’s attendance and leave policies.
University policy also requires that LSU’s Office of Internal Audit report to the Legislative Auditor and local law enforcement when it discovers evidence of embezzlement.
LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said that requirement did not apply in this case, as the investigation resulted in only a “provisional notice of problems”; a final report was never completed.
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Kaye’s issues were included in a batch of reports LSU submitted to the legislative auditor for the 2017-18 fiscal year, Ballard said, adding that the university acted appropriately.
Ballard also said notice was given in August 2018 that Kaye would be removed as department head, although Kaye held the position for more than a year.
Steven Procopio, president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, said the allegations against Kaye are “concerning” and that LSU should explain why no further action has been taken.
“If LSU thought they were serious enough to consider removing Dr. Kaye, what changed their minds?” said Procopius. “At least a publicly released follow-up to the interim report seems warranted.”
When Kaye corrected his timesheets, he said it satisfied his superiors, including Steve Nelson, then dean of the medical school.
“They told me you had to make these corrections. And I did,” Kaye said. “That kind of thing was the end.”
Nelson said the question of whether to take further action against Kaye was not up to him because he was not the most senior official in the organization.
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Nelson is now acting chancellor of LSU Health in New Orleans. The organization’s former longtime chancellor, Larry Hollier, resigned in October after separate financial irregularities were uncovered under his leadership. Hollier did not return a message seeking comment.
Kaye left New Orleans for Shreveport in November 2019. The administration was considering him to take over, Kaye said, which he eventually did in June 2020.
Kaye said he disclosed his investigation before he was hired. “I told their upper management that I had timesheet issues and didn’t feel comfortable, and it was the right time for me to leave (New Orleans)” , Kaye said.
Ghali Ghali, then chancellor of Shreveport, could not be reached for comment, and the organization’s incumbent chancellor, David Lewis, declined to comment.