Records show steakhouse dinners are part of St. Bernard DA hospital investigation

Records show steakhouse dinners are part of St. Bernard DA hospital investigation

ST. BERNARD PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Steak dinners, outings at oyster bars and even snacks at pizza places are what investigators are combing through as part of a probe into the St. Bernard Parish public hospital.

In just four months in 2012, credit card records obtained by FOX 8 show former hospital administrator Wayne Landry spent nearly $2,000 at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in New Orleans. Each of the 10 times that Landry dined at the steakhouse during that time were all paid for with hospital funds. 
"Hospitals in general are having a rough time surviving, and I think there is a lack of comprehension of a public hospital operating like a business, and I think that, too, is raising some concerns on the district attorney's side," Landry said. "I think not only myself but anybody in the management of the hospital is a focal point of the investigation, and no I haven't had any private conversations with the district attorney's office yet."

Landry spoke with FOX 8 on Tuesday during the hospital's board meeting.

On Wednesday, Landry said he will no longer give interviews after being advised by his lawyer.

A grand jury convened Wednesday as a part of the district attorney's investigation into the hospital's practices. In his defense, Landry said he spent money recruiting doctors to join the staff at the hospital, which opened in 2013.

"I spent about ten or fifteen thousand of my own money taking physicians to dinner to recruit them, and if I've spent in four years ten thousand of the hospital's money taking doctors to recruit to a dinner or to have a Christmas event, and that's a problem," Landry said. "Well, you see, I have difficulty comprehending that, because obviously I wouldn't do those things for the benefit of a meal or some kind of event gathering."

In those four months of 2012, Landry spent more than $3,150 total at restaurants around the area - including those meals at Ruth's Chris - and also at P.J.'s Coffee, Little Caesars and ACME Oyster House.

Landry said he used dinners to recruit because he argues it's difficult to compete with private hospitals when enticing qualified doctors to join his staff.

"Many times when you are used to doing things in the private sector, meaning entertaining people, taking them out for dinners and things like that, then you get into the public sector there's certain things you can't do," FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti said. "Sometimes people don't make that transition appropriately, and that's what can get you into trouble." 
Raspanti said the issue may be the misuse of public funds. Money used for meals and recruiting doctors may already be earmarked for other expenses, like hospital equipment or salaries, but not dinners for potential or current employees.

FOX 8 received the documents as a part of a records request in 2012 and have not received documents from the hospital since.

At this time, it is unknown when the grand jury will make a decision.

Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.