Investigation begins into former ZEO's hours, bills

NORTH CANAAN — Following months of investigation, the former zoning enforcement officer (ZEO) here and in two other area towns has been arrested for allegedly embezzling by over-billing for his time and travel.

Karl Nilsen, 69, of Derby was charged Nov. 30 with three counts of first-degree larceny. He was working part-time hours in North Canaan, New Hartford and Burlington for about three years.

In January 2010, town officials in New Hartford and Burlington, where Nilsen spent most of his work week, launched an investigation into budget line item overruns for the ZEO. They found numerous instances of overlapping hours on time cards. An audit of time cards and billable mileage submitted by Nilsen for the period between September 2008 and January 2010 was conducted by an accounting firm. It concluded he had double-billed for more than $16,000.

Nilsen was suspended last March 29 from his New Hartford and Burlington jobs. He had resigned his North Canaan post in the summer of 2009.

When contacted as the investigation was beginning, Nilsen told The Journal that he had an explanation for the alleged discrepancies. He said it had to do with the difficult task of accurately recording actual hours as he traveled between offices, meetings and site inspections, and often doing paperwork outside of office hours.

There is confusion, as well, over Nilsen’s status as a former employee. He resigned from the New Hartford and Burlington jobs in April, after he was suspended from both. His attorney stated in May that Nilsen had retired and was due a pension.

Nilsen was released on a $2,500 bond and is due in Bantam Superior Court Dec. 13.

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