Lee Zurik Investigation: Galvan snubs legislative auditor's records request

Parish President Pat Brister, answering questions for FOX 8 News
Parish President Pat Brister, answering questions for FOX 8 News

Last week, we showed how St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan claimed he took no vacation or sick time the past two years -- he cashed out all of the unused time, paying himself $67,000.

But Facebook photos show that Galvan took trips to Greece, Spain, wine country and Mexico, flying first-class, having Bloody Mary's and wines and even getting an upgrade to the honeymoon suite -- all while being paid as if he was on the job.

Parish President Pat Brister says seeing the pictures pushed her into action.

"Obviously when we saw Wednesday, I believe your report was Wednesday, and you had gotten records on the pay stubs, I believe, and the Facebook page, and they didn't compute," Brister told us.  "To us, that took us to a different level.  It was not just maybe unwise decisions anymore.  That was saying, 'I did something for money that I really didn't do.'  And that is public money.  So that was the turning point for us."

Brister wants to see the records herself, and put in a public records request for Galvan's time sheets. While she hasn't spoken with Galvan yet, Brister says she did send a letter Monday, asking for the records.

For the past three weeks, Galvan has been silent, unwilling to answer any of our questions about potential payroll fraud.

"To me, it's an arrogance," Brister said.  "He is a public official."

Now, he may also be a public official unwilling to hand over public records to investigators.

Sources tell FOX 8 News that Galvan's office has refused to hand over some records to the state's legislative auditor.  Our sources say the auditor contacted the St. Tammany Parish district attorney for help.

The DA's office confirmed to us Tuesday that they have recused themselves from the case involving the coroner, because of pending criminal trials that require the coroner's office to testify.

Our sources say the state's attorney general will now be working with the auditor to get those records.

David Caldwell from the AG's office told us Tuesday, "Any record the auditor needs assistance in getting... [they] will help."

So investigative agencies are looking closely at the actions of the parish coroner, who could have illegally paid himself tens of thousands of dollars in unused vacation money.

"What we need to do now is investigate what has gone on, in our realm," said Brister. "In our realm, it's how he spent the revenue from the bonds on payroll."

Our sources didn't know exactly which records the coroner refused to give the legislative auditor.