Lee Zurik Investigation: Peter Galvan... construction manager?

File image of Dr. Peter Galvan
File image of Dr. Peter Galvan
The closest we've been able to come to Dr. Galvan since our investigation began; that's his silhouette, through a glass door at inside his Slidell office
The closest we've been able to come to Dr. Galvan since our investigation began; that's his silhouette, through a glass door at inside his Slidell office

It's tough tracking down Dr. Peter Galvan – at least, it is when you have a news camera in hand.

Months ago, we tracked him down at his private office. You may see him in our video, through a glass door. When Galvan saw our camera, he sneaked away, out of view.

Now, through multiple sources, Galvan's story is told - at least part of it.

"It drives me crazy" - that's a quick summary of Rick Franzo's reaction to Galvan's story. Franzo has helped spearhead the recall effort of Galvan in St. Tammany Parish.

"I think the story is a nice way of doing a snow job to the people," Franzo says. "I found it to be somewhat insulting of our intelligence."

A North Shore newspaper, The Tammany West, has a front-page article that attributes Galvan's story to sources. Independently, FOX 8 News has confirmed much of the newspaper's story. It's what Galvan has told some friends and investigators from the Legislative Auditor's office.

Galvan is saying the large pay raises and meal charges on his public credit card came after he took on an additional role in his office, acting as project manager for the construction of his new building in Lacombe. So essentially, Galvan says, the $200,000 yearly salary funded his position as coroner and as project manager.

"He has been elected as coroner," notes Franzo, "and who ordained him or gave him the right to position himself as project manager? Create his own salary, which he feels is based on him being a project manager, to do this oversight. He has no qualifications to be a project manager. Now he may know the medical side, but that's not construction."

Franzo is right. The State Contracting Board told us by email that a project or construction manager must be licensed by the board. A quick check of their website shows Galvan is not licensed.

And in 2008, Galvan asked the state attorney general if he could act as the construction manager on the project; the AG said no.

Still, Galvan is telling friends and the legislative auditor that he took the pay raises because he acted as construction or project manager.

Franzo says, "If we allowed every political figure in St. Tammany Parish, the state of Louisiana, to get elected in one position and then create, as they're in office, to create another position, to allow themselves to increase their salary because they think it's worth a certain amount of money… I don't know what we're doing because we're creating total chaos in St. Tammany Parish and the state of Louisiana."

There's more. The Tammany West report says Galvan started meetings as project manager in 2007. But in the seven years prior to that, he took pay raises totaling more than $75,000. That's $75,000 in raises before he allegedly started as project manager.

Franzo says it's impossible to explain these raises. "Look at all the pay raises from 2000 to that point. They were large," he says. "What is the reason for that? Self serving, I guess."

And even though the construction project is complete - the new office opened one year ago - Galvan's salary remains $200,000.

"This is where I think it's even more funny," Franzo tells us. "I think this is unbelievable."

Galvan still hasn't told his story publicly - he's still dodging our cameras. But it's a story he's telling investigators, who are looking into questionable spending in his office.

"It tells me this whole thing is fluff to the public," says Franzo. "And if people don't look beyond the nonsense that we hear on this report, then I don't know what else we can do for St. Tammany Parish."

Galvan has also told friends he saved his office about $2 million by overseeing the project.