COVINGTON, La. -- The private law firm of one of the highest-paid assistant district attorneys in the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney's Office is making hundreds of thousands of dollars off of a contract with the St. Tammany Parish School District.
Harry Pastuszek has been an assistant district attorney in the 22nd Judicial District since Walter Reed was first elected to the office decades ago. He has been a fixture at St. Tammany Parish School Board meetings since the 1990's.
According to a spokeswoman for the school district, Pastuszek was placed in the position through an agreement with the district attorney's office.
But Pastuszek's private law firm, Pastuszek and Associates, also has a deal to work for the school board, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to the firm, and in turn, Pastuszek's bottom line.
'It doesn't add up financially, and I think the district attorney owes an explanation to the public as to how an employee of his office that is paid one of the higher salaries in his office before his retirement is allowed to have a private practice in which he's billing another governmental body in St Tammany Parish hundreds of thousands of dollars a year,' said Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche.
A resolution passed by the St. Tammany Parish School Board in 2007 set pay rates for Pastuszek and Associates at $150 an hour for work done by Harry or his two associates, David Pittman and Shane Jordan, and $70 bucks an hour for clerical work.
In 2011, the school board paid Pastuszek and Associates $440,666 and in 2012, $475,193. In 2013, payments to Pastuszek and Associates topped half a million dollars at $545,399. So far in 2014, the firm has billed the board $320,700. According to the board, those numbers include payments for work done by Harry Pastuszek.
'If Mr. Pastuszek is billing the school board hundreds of thousands of dollars in a private capacity, and he's doing that based on the hours that he worked, then what did he do for the district attorney's office? How many hours did he devote to work as an assistant district attorney?' asked Goyeneche.
The head of the Louisiana District Attorney's Association said it's not unusual for district attorney's offices to contract with other governmental boards to handle their civil legal work.
'Some DA's offices provide civil representation, you know regular counsel for 15, 20, 25, 30 public bodies,' said LDAA Executive Director Pete Adams.
If the district attorney's office gets paid for that work, the checks typically go to the district attorney's office. That's how St. Tammany's deal with Slidell Memorial hospital appears to work for Assistant District Attorney Donald Kearns.
In fact, the district attorney's office makes money off the deal, paying Kearns slightly less than the $171,000 the office takes in. But apparently, that's not the case when it comes to Pastuszek.
The school district paid Pastuszek and Associates by the hour for Harry's work, according to district spokeswoman Meredith Mendez, but they also sent checks made out to Walter Reed D.A. for Pastuszek's retirement contributions.
That payment arrangement makes it appear Pastuszek was getting public retirement benefits based on work done through his private law firm.
Pastuszek maxed out the state retirement system for assistant district attorney's in 2013 and started drawing on it.
Not only will he get his full salary for the rest of his life from the state district attorney's retirement system, but Pastuszek was one of a few hand-picked employees that Walter Reed started a special retirement plan for a few years ago.
'He was also having his employer, Mr. Reed, make a special 20 percent of his salary contribution to a special pension program that the DA paid to himself and 10 other key employees,' Goyeneche said.
Walter Reed was the only person who received more contributions to that fund from the DA's office than Pastuszek, according to records of contributions for three years that the DA's office provided to our partners at the New Orleans Advocate.
What we still don't know is just how much Pastuszek had been getting paid. In 2011, that special retirement plan showed his salary to be more than $136,000.
Salary amounts provided to WWL-TV by the DA's office show he made $68,000 in 2012 and $25,000 in 2013, the year that sources say he retired.
But records we received through a public records request from the state retirement system tell a different story.
Pastuszek was being paid from four different public sources: the 22nd Judicial District, St. Tammany Parish, Washington Parish and the state of Louisiana, which funds the base pay for a designated number of assistant district attorney positions in each parish.
In 2010, Pastuszek's retirement contributions were based off of reported earnings of more than $169,000. In 2011, that number climbed to $190,000.
In 2012, Pastuszek reported making nearly $245,000 and in 2013, the year he partially retired, he reported $116,000 in public income.
'What were his responsibilities as an assistant district attorney that would justify the pay that he received with public funds as an assistant district attorney?' Goyeneche asked.
It's all in addition to the amounts billed to the St. Tammany school board for other work done by Pastuszek and Associates.
'This doesn't pass the smell test,' Goyeneche said.
While Harry Pastuszek didn't return calls for comment, with his name on the law firm, it's common practice that he gets a cut of what the firm takes in.
The St. Tammany Parish School District wouldn't do an on-camera interview with us, and the district attorney and his two spokesmen never responded to our requests for an interview last week.
We're expecting more documents from the district attorney's office about Pastuszek's work in the coming days.