Lee Zurik Investigation: State treasurer, St. Tammany politicians sign Galvan recall petition

State Treasurer John Kennedy signs the petition to recall St. Tammany Coroner Peter Galvan (photo from Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany/Facebook)
State Treasurer John Kennedy signs the petition to recall St. Tammany Coroner Peter Galvan (photo from Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany/Facebook)

The recall effort to oust the St. Tammany Parish coroner landed a high-profile signature Wednesday. A long-time statewide elected official says it's time for Dr. Peter Galvan to leave office.

During the day, La. Treasurer John Kennedy works in the state capitol. But every night, Kennedy drives home to his St. Tammany Parish house. That's where he caught our series of stories on the parish coroner.

"There is no excuse for this," Kennedy tells us. "It's indefensible. I mean, this is one of the worst cases of abuse that I've seen."

Kennedy says the findings in our investigative series left him outraged.

"What's gone on in that office… the ridiculous pay raises, the extravagant meals, the spending of taxpayer money on what appears to be items and matters that are unrelated to the office... As a taxpayer - I live in Madisonville and my wife works in St. Tammany Parish, my son goes to school here, I pay taxes here – it offends me," Kennedy says. "It more than offends me. It's appalling."

Kennedy joins five St. Tammany Parish Council members, a group of state representatives from St. Tammany and the Slidell police chief - all elected officials who publicly support the recall of another politician.

"When they don't measure up and when their absence of measuring up is intentional, where you have $200,000 for, you know, a part-time job… where you have tens of thousands of dollars, I think it's $51,000 spent on meals, for God's sakes… when you have a quarter of the office making $100,000 or more… I mean, come on," the treasurer says, "It's ridiculous."

Right now the recall petition is behind schedule. They've gotten about 23,000 signatures. They need 53,000 by mid-November.

"We've also had a steam roll within the last couple of weeks," says Rick Franzo with the group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany.

After a slow end to the summer, the recall has picked up pace because of a new effort they've labeled SWARM, or Single Warrior Attack Recall Mechanism. Anyone who signs the recall effort is asked to gather more signatures. They're given a recall sheet and a stamped envelope to mail back.

"We're not asking them to go door to door, we're not asking them to do anything but to get family and some close friends, put it back in the envelope and mail it to Concerned Citizens," Franzo says.

In the past week, the SWARM effort has produced an additional 3,500 signatures. "Hopefully in two months, if the numbers can continue this track, we're going to be close," Franzo tells us.

After signing the recall petition, the state treasurer took one of those SWARM envelopes, hoping to help a group of citizens oust a long-time coroner who makes more than every other elected official in the state..

"And you wonder why people are cynical about government?" says Kennedy. "There's nothing that anybody can say that would make me say, 'Well, I understand, I see their point of view, there are two sides to every argument…' This is clear, black and white, you know? This was wrong and the coroner ought to quit. He ought to resign."