Lee Zurik Investigation: Citizens group begins Galvan recall effort
The Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany have started to put things in place for a recall of Parish Coroner Peter Galvan. The citizen group's board voted to put the process in motion, but hasn't given the okay to file the necessary paperwork.
Our "Body of Evidence" series of investigative reports detailed questionable spending made by Galvan and his CPA, Kim Kelly, on meals, alcohol, even groceries. FOX 8 also examined Galvan's cash-outs for unused vacation and sick days for periods of time when Galvan was apparently on out-of-state vacations.
More than 100 names are on a list of elected officials whom voters have tried to recall in Louisiana since 1966. None ever held a parish-wide office, though. Most are school board members, mayors of small towns, council members and police jurors.
To hold a recall election for a parish-wide official in St. Tammany Parish, signatures would need to be collected from 53,000 registered voters.
UNO political analyst Ed Chervenak says, if there's one parish is capable of getting those signatures, it would be St. Tammany.
"And it is the most highly educated, most prosperous parish," said Chervenak. "Lots of political interest up there… so people would be motivated. Also you've had six months to collect those signatures, so there's a little bit of time that they can do it."
Rick Franzo of Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany said, "In six months' time, I think it's very possible."
Once they file the paperwork, the group would have six months to get those 53,000 signatures from St. Tammany voters.
Chervenak said, "Money is the key, because you need organization and you need volunteers. You know, you have to pay for pizza that feeds the volunteers and get them out there."
The group hopes its focus on the coroner leads to greater change in the parish.
Carl Ernst of Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany said, "Our real long-term goal is to have a new parish charter that just puts the checks and balances in place."
Galvan himself has been silent for weeks, and that may push the Concerned Citizens to action to try and recall a parish-wide official, possibly for the first time in Louisiana history.
"A good steward of public trust would welcome any opportunity to explain their actions or lack of action," said Ernst. "It's only a weak or abusive steward of the public trust that's going to hide. And he's hiding because he doesn't want to have to withstand your questions or anybody else's questions. They're going to be direct, hard questions."
The St Tammany Parish Council voted 13-1 Thursday, asking Galvan to resign as coroner. The council also voted unanimously to ask Galvan to pay back about $175,000. That's money that Galvan allegedly paid himself in unused vacation and sick time.
Parish, state and federal officials are demanding that Galvan turn over financial statements and other documentation linked to spending by his office and his own work records. A parish spokesman confirms to FOX 8 that the Coroner's Office handed over some documents to President Pat Brister's office Monday, but did not say what documents were delivered.
Next installment: Lee Zurik Investigation: Policy manual shows Galvan may have broken law