A day after longtime St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan pleaded guilty to stealing from taxpayers, a north shore doctor who has worked for the office for several years has indicated she will seek the post Galvan held for 14 years.
Dr. Leanne Truehart, a board-certified psychiatrist and the mental health director for the Coroner’s Office, said Thursday she will not apply to be the interim coroner and will instead run for the seat when a special election is called.
Truehart has served as a contract employee of the Coroner’s Office since 2012, when Galvan awarded her a contract worth $180,000 per year to handle the mental health duties at the office.
The contract called for Truehart to be in charge of all involuntary mental health commitments, plus other duties.
Truehart’s name does not appear in either the federal bill of information against Galvan or the Louisiana legislative auditor’s report on the office, both of which accused the coroner, among other things, of conspiring with other office employees to steal taxpayer money to pay for meals and personal items.
Her name was first floated by Michael DeFatta, the chief deputy coroner.
DeFatta stood to automatically take over as interim coroner when Galvan stepped down, but in a letter to the Parish Council, he refused to accept the appointment and instead proposed Truehart for the interim post.
His letter also said Truehart intended to run to fill out the remainder of Galvan’s term.
Truehart said her decision to run came after consultation with colleagues, friends and family.
Galvan resigned as coroner Oct. 18.
Truehart joins one another announced candidate: Robert Muller, a Slidell gynecologist, who said Monday that he plans to run. Muller also submitted an application to become interim coroner, but the council has decided to accept applications only from those who agree not to run for the position.
As of Thursday afternoon, two people had submitted paperwork to apply for the interim position: Slidell primary care doctor Adrian Talbot and Covington cardiologist Pramod Menon.
Jeff Arnold to sit out District C council race
Rep. Jeff Arnold, who will have to leave his seat in the state Legislature after 2015 because of term limits, has ended months of speculation that he might run for the District C seat on the New Orleans City Council.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Arnold said he has decided against jumping into the race despite the fact that a “very reputable and in-depth poll” suggested he could defeat incumbent Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer in February’s election.
Arnold declined to provide a copy of the poll results.
“As intriguing as a run for City Council might be,” he wrote, “the reality is my family would suffer due to additional commitments of my time.”
In an interview, he said he will focus on his day job at First NBC Bank when he leaves the state House of Representatives in January 2016, but he added that he will keep his political options open.
If Palmer wins re-election, he pointed out, she will face term limits herself in the 2017 elections. And David Heitmeier will have to relinquish his seat in the state Senate in January 2020.
For now, Arnold’s decision leaves the District C contest a two-way race between Palmer and Nadine Ramsey, a former Civil District Court judge and one-time mayoral candidate.
Ramsey announced her candidacy earlier this month via Twitter and plans to host a formal kickoff on Wednesday.
City Hall has alternate view of ruling
When the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled this week that the Orleans Parish Clerk of Criminal District Court’s Office is governed by state law and the city therefore cannot cut the salaries of the clerk’s staffers, Clerk Arthur Morrell saw it as a clear win.
Based on the ruling, Morrell said the city would have to pay back $140,000 that it cut from his $3.7 million budget last year.
But the city disagrees with Morrell’s interpretation of the 4th Circuit’s ruling, which reversed a decision in the city’s favor by Civil District Court Judge Sidney Cates IV.
The reversal rested in part on a law passed by the Legislature this year that said the money allotted to the clerk’s office could not be cut without the Legislature’s approval.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, city spokesman Tyler Gamble wrote: “The court remanded the matter to Judge Cates to consider the case in light of the new legislation. The ruling does not require the city to pay the $140,000 and there is nothing to appeal at this point.”
The city’s position seems to set the stage for future legal skirmishes between City Hall and the clerk.
“The city believes it has met its legal obligation to provide funding to the clerk of court,” Gamble wrote, “and has the authority through the City Charter to take action to ensure the clerk’s office operates within its budget.”
Compiled by staff writer Faimon Roberts, Andrew Vanacore and Gordon Russell.