Lee Zurik Investigation: Patricia Core under federal investigation - FOX 8, WVUE, fox8live.com, weather, app, news, saints

Lee Zurik Investigation: Patricia Core under federal investigation

The FBI has launched an investigation into the St. Tammany Parish Assessor's Office and Assessor Patricia Core.

The investigation comes after a FOX 8 investigation last year revealed questionable spending.

Late last year, federal investigators dropped off two federal grand jury subpoenas to Core's office. The first came on August 25.  The federal government requested five sets of documents from Core's office -- each set dating back to the beginning of 2006. FOX 8 News reviewed most of the records in this subpoena during our investigation of Core last year.

The government asked for credit card records and receipts, documentation on cars owned by the assessor, a list of employees, contractors and consultants paid by Core's office, and the personnel files and calendars of six employees.

What's interesting is that, a few months later, the government requested more information. Two days before Thanksgiving, they sent a subpoena to Core's Covington house. This request was much more extensive and relates to Core's campaign. The government requested almost every document imaginable -- payroll records, invoices, agreements, emails, credit card statements, bank statements, savings records, contracts, agreements, employee information -- all dating back to the beginning of 2005.

Core has declined our most recent requests for an interview.  We have new questions about how she has handled one of her employees.  When we last spoke with Core, it didn’t take her long to find an employee to blame for her office's misspending.

Core blamed alcohol, expensive meals, even illegal retirement gifts for employees, on her chief deputy, George Klumpp. She said Klumpp would be retiring from her office, and she would be looking for a new chief deputy.

“I've already talked to him,” Core told us, “asked him... that we're going to have a meeting on Monday about him retiring… because of the alcohol, the drinking and, you know, getting drinks on the credit card, yeah, and other reasons too."

She made a few more retirement references during our interview. But days later, she changed course and said Klumpp would go into alcohol rehab.

But nine months have passed, and Patricia Core still employees George Klumpp. And -- get this -- after the alcohol, expensive meals and the launch of an FBI investigation, Core rewarded Klumpp with a raise.

In 2011, the year of our investigation, Core paid Klumpp $107,000. But last month -- after saying he would retire, after saying he drank on the job, ate out on taxpayers’ expense, may have forged her signature and gave her poor advice -- Core raised his yearly salary four percent, to $112,000.

But there's more. Compare the population of St. Tammany to Jefferson Parish, and then compare George Klumpp's yearly salary to his counterpart in Jefferson. St. Tammany has 200,000 fewer people -- but Klumpp makes $14,000 more.
Comparisons raise even more questions about Core's office and what it costs St. Tammany Parish taxpayers.

Remember the population comparison between St. Tammany and Jefferson: Jefferson also has 59,000 more parcels of land to assess than St. Tammany. Still, this year, St. Tammany's total payroll comes to $2.3 million – 50 percent more than the Jefferson Parish Assessor.

Voters ousted Core from office last fall.  But she is expected to remain in her position for this year, as she remains on the radar of the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office.
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