ST. TAMMANY, La. -- With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed over financial control of the St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office to the parish council Tuesday.
The bill, now law, making the change follows months of allegations of mismanagement and misspending by Coroner Dr. Peter Galvan.
With the reins of the coroner’s office finances now in the hands of the parish council, a big challenge is ahead.
"We're putting more on our plate, or are being asked to, but I think it is a necessary thing," said Council Chairman Jerry Binder.
House bill 561, which became law Tuesday, immediately transfers all of the money collected from the 2004 millage tax for the coroner's office to a special account that the parish is in charge of, except what's needed to run the office for the rest of this year, which the parish Finance Department will determine.
A goal of theirs is to return tax money not needed.
"We need to be able to get in there and start determining what is kind of the day-to-day method of accounting, payroll, paying bills," said Binder.
This new law also means that any purchases or contracts have to be approved by the parish council and any salaries for any person in this building, except Galvan, are now in the parish council's control. But any coroner after Galvan will have their pay set by the parish, and in six months, all of the coroner's office property becomes parish property.
The changes are something citizens hope will be taken full advantage of.
"Reaching out to other areas and making an assessment of what really is the cost and what the expenses and salaries should be," said Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany President Rick Franzo.
The coroner's office had no comment about its new operations, but everyone who contributed to creating them says this is one good step, of many, toward better accountability in St. Tammany Parish.
Investigations into the coroner's office by the FBI and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor are still ongoing. Organizers of a recall effort against Galvan say they are on target to get the 54,000 signatures needed by November to hold a recall election.
Binder says he plans to meet with St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister next week to start the process of taking over