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Lee Zurik Investigation: Council wants to question coroner, but will he show up?

The St. Tammany Parish Council wants the coroner, Dr. Peter Galvan, to answer questions at the next council meeting. According to the council, they are ready to cut funding to Galvan's office.

"I want to see the coroner," said Council Chairman Jerry Binder.  "Council members want to see the coroner.  That's who we'd like to question."

But Binder admits he's not sure Galvan will show up. "He does not have to show up," Binder said.  "I mean, we don't have any authority to make him show up.  But given the latest revelations and everything that have been coming out, and of course our own concerns, consternation that's been expressed by the public, we want to ask some questions -- not only going backwards, but going forward as well."

The council has put together more than a page of topics they want to examine.  We have many of the same questions after our series of stories on Galvan.

The council wants the coroner to give details on salaries, spending, vacation and sick leave, credit and debit cards and about $14 million purportedly sitting in the bank -- the coroner's reserve.  Council Chairman Jerry Binder says, by his calculations, that reserve is actually closer to $7 million, because of debts.

Binder told us, "We want to give him the opportunity to answer our questions."

But even those answers may still cost Galvan's office money.  Binder says the council is prepared to take away a large chunk of the coroner's funds.

"We want to look at rolling the millage back to such a degree that the Coroner Office has to bite into that $6.6 million of surplus over the next two years," Binder said.  "That will allow us to roll the millages back so that our constituents, the taxpayers of St. Tammany Parish, have a decreased tax from the end of this year on the invoice, and the end of next year."

And if the Coroner's Office doesn't show, Binder says, the council will determine how much he needs.

"It's not our job to fund the Coroner's Office where a coroner, or allegedly, gets two vehicles," said Binder.  "It's our job to fund the Coroner's Office where the coroner gets one vehicle."

Peter Galvan has two cars, and is paid more than any other elected official in the state.

"Do I believe the coroner's salary at 195 to 200 thousand dollars is too high?  Yeah," Binder said.

It's a salary so high, it takes what 10 of Jerry Binder's colleagues were paid -- 10 council members -- to total what taxpayers gave Galvan last year.

Next week, those council members could start a process that takes away millions of dollars from Galvan's office.  That council meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening at 6:00.

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