St. Tammany coroner's race down to two

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 7, 2014 at 6:41 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 7 at 7:00 PM

Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

MANDEVILLE, La. - St. Tammany Parish is switching gears in its effort to make former Coroner Peter Galvan pay back taxpayers following his corruption conviction.

Galvan is scheduled to learn how much restitution he owes from his federal case Wednesday, just two days before he reports to prison for two years. It’s estimated that payback will be near $200,000 for misspending public dollars and giving himself improper sick and vacation time.

But Monday, the parish announced it’s moving its claim for an additional $200,000, at least, in attorney’s fees from the federal case to a state court. Leaders say they didn’t want to risk losing any money if there was already a pre-arranged amount from Galvan’s plea deal.

Meanwhile, a highly anticipated run-off to replace Galvan is ahead after voters whittled down the candidates from four to two. Almost 22,000 people cast a vote Saturday, choosing Dr. Charles Preston and Dr. Leanne Truehart as the top two picks for coroner.

For the retired emergency physician and director of mental health at the Coroner's Office, respectively, the results were exactly what they were hoping for.

"This is where we expected to be as the race was developing," Preston said.

Truehart said, "I've really enjoyed getting to meet so many people in the community and I look forward to continuing that process."

The registrar's office says the turnout was better than typical special elections, but less than expected for this race to finish Galvan's term, ending in 2016. Both candidates say they plan to stay the course these next 30 days by maintaining their message to voters.

"Absolutely, to restore accountability, transparency and professionalism to the office and really help the public understand why it is that I'm the best candidate for this position," Truehart said.

Preston said, "Message from the beginning has been that the Coroner's Office is an office that has four areas of expertise that are required. Death investigations, sexual assault investigations, psychiatric involvement and administration. My background gives me expertise in all four."

And with the television spots and social media pushes set to continue, voters say they're looking forward to May 3. Doctors Adrian Talbot and Robert Muller, who finished third and fourth, say they’ll decide this week whether to endorse either of the two remaining candidates.

A debate between Preston and Truehart is scheduled for April 28 in Lacombe.

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