St. Tammany Parish DA resigns as hospital board attorney - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

St. Tammany Parish DA resigns as hospital board attorney

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A file photo of St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed (right) at a recent news conference with Sheriff Jack Strain. A file photo of St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed (right) at a recent news conference with Sheriff Jack Strain.
MANDEVILLE, LA (WVUE) -

Members of a government watchdog group on the north shore say they're surprised by Wednesday's announcement from District Attorney Walter Reed. He resigned his position as outside legal counsel for the St. Tammany Parish hospital. The move comes after a series of Lee Zurik and NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune investigations.

Reed didn't show up at a St. Tammany Parish hospital board meeting Wednesday afternoon, but he did send a letter to be read by the board's general counsel, Bill Jones.

The letter stated in part, "My resignation from this position will take effect immediately. It has been my distinct pleasure to serve the hospital over the past 20 years and I believe I have brought meaningful value to the board through my advice, experience and counsel."

Reacting to news of his resignation, Gary Leonard, a board member of the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany said, "We're obviously very glad that Mr. Reed did resign."

Leonard continued, "We really didn't see this coming."

In his letter, Reed acknowledged there have been "unnecessary distractions of the past several weeks".

In a joint series of investigations, Lee Zurik and NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune detailed the lucrative position Reed held. Despite filing a financial disclosure with the state where he described his position as district attorney for both St. Tammany and Washington parishes as full time, he held the position with the hospital and also continues to operate a private law practice. Since 2008, he reported making $30,000 a year from his gig as outside legal counsel for the hospital board. The hospital, however, couldn't produce any invoices or documents to show what Reed did to earn that money.

Tulane law professor Joel Friedman explains, "It would seem to me that the hospital, which is publicly owned, should demand of its employees, particularly legal employees, particularly counsel who its paying $30,000 a year, some accounting of what kind of work that person is doing."

FOX 8 reports also detailed how Reed would often send an assistant district attorney from the parish to hospital board meetings if he couldn't attend.

"I think the major concern citizens and taxpayers should have in St. Tammany Parish is the fact that he was having an underling - in this case, an ADA - attend these meetings for him. The real question being, were we, the taxpayers, paying this person to attend this meetings?" Leonard asked.

Reed told us he sent assistant ADA Leo Hemelt, who acted "as an attorney in private practice with no payment of public funds from the district attorney." But board minutes show that when Hemelt attended, he was listed as an assistant district attorney. Now, Walter Reed will no longer be attending the board meetings or getting paid $2,500 a month for undocumented services.

Gary Leonard believes the situation with the ADA attending the hospital board meetings is very similar to Peter Galvan, the former coroner, sending someone in his place to the Slidell jail to take care of sick inmates. Galvan held a contract with the City of Slidell as a private doctor, but he sent an employee of the coroner's office, who was being paid with taxpayer dollars, to do the work for which he was paid.

For more on this investigation, visit our Louisiana Purchased section.

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