Lee Zurik Investigation: Police chief says Body of Evidence makes him sick
The Slidell police chief wants to cancel a contract with Dr. Peter Galvan.
The St. Tammany Parish coroner, through his private medical practice, has been hired to take care of sick inmates. It's a contract we mentioned several weeks ago, and following those reports, the contract is now part of a federal investigation.
Galvan makes $47,000 a year to take care of sick inmates. But since Randy Smith has been police chief, Galvan has never stepped foot inside the jail. Instead he sends not a doctor, not a nurse, but a paramedic, Mark Lombard.
Smith told us he "questioned whether or not he is a nurse practitioner, had the right to do the job. We've just learned that he's a paramedic. Therefore, obviously he's not as qualified as I thought he was."
The chief told us he learned that from FOX 8's reporting. It has Smith ready to cancel Galvan's contract. He wants to put the contract out for public bid, saying he believes he can save the city money..
"Since you started your investigation, I've seen that we're not getting the satisfaction of the performance from Mark Lombard, who is the representative for Peter Galvan," Smith told us. "We've seen a decline in trying to get phone calls answered, and the medicines and medical attention that we need to provide these inmates."
Lombard is also the chief death investigator for the Coroner's Office. Logs at the jail show that, when Lombard can't make sick visits, the Coroner's Office is called instead.
Smith said "It is definitely a conflict of interest. I'm not sure how far that will go, but it seems to me that it's time to get out of the contract and move on with someone new."
Jail logs show Lombard mainly comes during the work week. We picked just a handful of days in early 2010: Lombard checked into the jail in the afternoon on Wednesday, January 27, on Friday, February 26, on Monday, March 15 and on Friday, March 26.
Was Lombard also working for the coroner then?
We also want to know whether Lombard is being paid by Galvan through his private practice to treat the inmates. If Lombard is not getting a piece of the $47,000 contract, is Galvan essentially using a public resource -- in this case, the public employee Mark Lombard -- to earn private money?
The government is also seeking answers. The FBI subpoenaed records related to this contract shortly after our stories aired -- a federal investigation that's broadening, looking into how a parish coroner spent public money and used public resources.
"It's sad," Smith told us. "It makes me sick to think that an elected official would betray the public's trust. It's so easy to do the right thing. It gives me and every other public official a black eye and I think our citizens deserve a lot better than that."
Slidell's city attorney says Galvan's contract is being reviewed, and appropriate actions will be taken at the conclusion of that review.
Next installment: Lee Zurik Investigation: Lawmaker's bill could hit Galvan where it hurts