Lee Zurik Investigation: House passes bill to curb Galvan's powers

Dr. Peter Galvan, St. Tammany Parish Coroner (File)
Dr. Peter Galvan, St. Tammany Parish Coroner (File)

Baton Rouge, La. - Louisiana's House of Representatives has approved a bill that would give the St. Tammany Parish Council control over salaries and spending in the parish Coroner's Office.

Representative Tim Burns (R-Mandeville) authored HB 561, and he told the House chamber about many of the findings from our series of FOX 8 investigations.

"The coroner is currently paid $203,000 for a part-time job, which rose to $230,000 after cashing in unused sick leave," Burns told colleagues on the House floor Tuesday afternoon.

Under the bill, the Parish Council would set the office salaries and oversee purchases, many of which have been highlighted by FOX 8 News and the Times-Picayune.

"A $63,000 tractor for his office, two take-home cars for the office, both assigned to the coroner, and use of a public credit card by the CFO and other employees," read Burns from his notes, "and of course there were trips to conferences at Napa Valley and Hilton Head.

The bill passed easily on a 91-0 vote. It now moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On the same day lawmakers move closer to tightening the grip on Galvan's spending, the legislative auditor told FOX 8 News they're asking a court to order Galvan to turn over records.

The auditor has been probing the Coroner's Office and, as we reported in February, Galvan has refused to hand over emails for six employees, including himself and his chief financial officer, Kim Kelly.

The auditor sent Galvan a subpoena this month and now has asked a Baton Rouge court to order Galvan to produce the records.

A Baton Rouge judge should hear that case in May, about the same time period the full Senate will likely vote on a bill that could lead to a significant reduction of the salary of Galvan and many of the high-ranking employees in his office.