North Shore watchdog group lashes out over threat to state IG

North Shore watchdog group lashes out over threat to state I.G.

SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - A North Shore watchdog group calls one proposal to help ease the state's budget crisis short-sighted. The group worries the state can't afford to lose an  office of inspector general because corruption is an ongoing problem.

It has been just over a week since a Louisiana jury convicted 30-year St. Tammany District Attorney Walter Reed of corruption.

"It ain't over till the fat ladies sings," said Reed, now planning his appeal.

But she may already be singing for one of the offices that investigated him.

"For the state of Louisiana to de-fund this. For me and CCST, this is a giant step back for Louisiana," said Rick Franzo with Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany.

This week, a state House committee voted to defund the state office of inspector general in order to fund TOPS.

"We're asking people to understand the importance of this office. It would take Louisiana to another level. In order to  not be a backwoods, we need this office," said Franzo.

Inspector General Stephen Street said in just the past three years, and with a budget of under $2 million, his office launched investigations that led to 23 convictions. Seven involved wrongdoing in the state's film tax credit program, involving nearly $10 million in fraud.

"What we are is a people's investigation agency," said Street. "We have no allegiances."

Members of CCST are especially upset over the proposed elimination of the state inspector general because that office was supposed to be a stopgap for a parish which rejected its own IG several years ago.

Parish officials proposed a hybrid oversight plan involving the legislative auditor and the state IG, but now it's meaningless.

"That enhanced audit is wasteful and not going to get us anywhere," said Franzo.

Franzo says the IG was involved in probes of both the DA's office, and the coroner.

"We provided a lot of info to the state IG on Reed and Galvan," said Franzo.

And there are more on the way.

"We have a lot of ongoing investigations that are sensitive, and will stop dead in the water," said Street.

Concerned Citizens of St Tammany calls on it's 5,000 members to take action.

"Send emails and letters to all your state representatives," said Franzo.

A crucial vote on the future of the IG is set for this Thursday.

The state inspector general says in six years, his office  identified $34 million in fraud in Louisiana. That's five times more than the IG's budget.

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