St. Tammany coroner to submit 78,000 emails to Legislative Auditor

The embattled St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office will submit some 78,000 emails to the state legislative auditor on Friday, and a judge in Baton Rouge will decide whether another 2,000 Coroner’s Office emails are privileged or should be given to auditors, attorneys for both sides said Monday.

Jenifer Schaye, who represents Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera and the Legislative Audit Advisory Council, told state District Judge William Morvant that a joint stipulation calls for the Coroner’s Office to turn over all nonprivileged emails to the auditors by 11 a.m. Friday.

Billy Gibbens, an attorney for the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office and Coroner Peter Galvan, told Morvant the joint agreement asks the judge to decide whether another 2,000 emails are privileged, as the Coroner’s Office contends.

The Coroner’s Office claims those emails, which will be turned over to the judge Friday, are protected by such things as attorney-client privilege and the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The Coroner’s Office is under investigation by the legislative auditor following media reports about lavish spending, inflated salaries and other practices.

Gibbens said in court the roughly 80,000 emails cover a nine-year period.

The joint stipulation resulted from a legislative auditor lawsuit against the Coroner’s Office, which had refused to comply with a legislative subpoena for the email records of Galvan and five other employees. The subpoena was served April 16; the suit was filed April 26.

“We usually get the documents from the auditee. This is unusual,” Schaye said Monday outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse in downtown Baton Rouge.

The St. Tammany Parish Council passed a resolution in March asking Galvan to step down, but he has not responded to that request.

The activist group Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany filed paperwork with the state Secretary of State’s Office last week launching a recall campaign.

Some 53,000 registered voters’ signatures must be obtained in 180 days to force a new election.