St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister asked the Louisiana Legislative Auditor for a 'thorough and complete inspection' of the finances of the St Tammany Parish District Attorney's office Monday morning, hours before District Attorney Walter Reed sent a letter himself asking for 'assistance and guidance' on his finances and budget.
Brister released the letter she sent to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera after Reed had released his request for assistance to the media earlier in the afternoon.
In her letter, Brister asked for the inspection of the DA's office finances saying, 'The public has a right to know that their tax dollars are being used in ethical, productive and efficient ways.'
Purpera said Monday evening that he and his staff would meet with both the DA and the Parish President to find out what kind of a review they were asking for.
'It really does come down to resources,' Purpera said, 'Do we have the resources to do what they're asking?'
Government agencies typically submit financial statement audits conducted by outside CPA's to the legislative auditor annually. Reed's office already submitted one, and Purpera said typically that would be a starting point for any kind of further examination by his office.
However, Purpera said the decision about what kind of audit to conduct really rests with his office.
'The law gives me a lot of latitude in terms of what kind of audit we do,' he said, and that could mean a full investigative audit.
Purpera confirmed that he received Brister's letter this morning, and that Reed sent his this afternoon. Both letters referenced recent media reports alleging misspending of taxpayer funds, with Reed specifically referring to questions about the DA's office contract with St Tammany Parish Hospital to serve as special legal counsel.
In recent weeks, the hospital confirmed its contract was with the DA's Office, not Reed personally, even though Reed reported the retainer paid by the hospital as person income on his financial disclosure statements sent to the Louisiana Board of Ethics.
Reed then countered, saying a conversation with a now-deceased board chairman at the hospital led him to believe the contract was with Reed personally. However, on a handful of occasions, Reed sent one of his Assistant District Attorneys in his place to hospital board meetings when he could not appear himself. Whether that ADA was paid as a private attorney by Reed is still unclear.
That ADA, Leo Hemelt, has been subpoenaed by the FBI to appear before a federal grand jury that has been investigating Reed.