- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

COVINGTON, La. (AP) - Officials in St. Tammany Parish want the former coroner to repay almost $208,000 his office paid two law firms to defend him in a corruption case.

Peter Galvan pleaded guilty in February to conspiring to steal public funds while he was coroner. He was sentenced to two years in a federal prison.

The New Orleans Advocate reported (https://bit.ly/1jyXM7l) the Parish Council has asked U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan to order the restitution.

In a memo to the judge, parish officials contend two law firms were hired to defend Galvan, not the coroner’s office, and therefore money paid to them was not a legitimate use of the public’s funds.

In the memo, parish attorney Terry Hand said total legal expenses for the coroner’s office far exceeded what the parish seeks. He estimates those total expenses at more than $1.2 million.

“However, one cannot indict or charge the coroner’s office, but only the coroner, as was done in this case,” Hand wrote. “The defendant was guilty from the time he committed the criminal acts, and he certainly knew he was guilty when the legislative auditor and the federal (sic) and state began their investigations.”

Attached to Hand’s memo are 85 pages of supporting documents, including billing records from the two law firms, Schonekas, Evans, McGoey and McEachin and the firm of Stephen D. London. The former firm was paid $116,944.07, according to Hand’s memo, and London billed $90,880.

Morgan will hold a hearing April 9 on how much restitution Galvan must make.

The hearing is just two days before Galvan is scheduled to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to begin his sentence.

His resignation and plea deal in October brought an end to his 13-year tenure in office.

For most of his last year in office, the coroner became reclusive as news reports about lavish spending and high staff salaries - Galvan was earning more than $200,000 - came to light. State and federal investigations followed and in October Galvan was charged in a bill of information with one count of conspiracy to commit theft.

After his resignation, the Parish Council appointed cardiologist Pramod Menon to serve as interim coroner and set his annual salary at $72,000.

A special election to fill the remainder of Galvan’s term is set for April 5. The council has set the salary for the next elected coroner at $84,000 a year.


Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, https://www.neworleansadvocate.com

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