Mandeville — The St. Tammany Parish Council asked parish Coroner Peter Galvan to resign from office Thursday, one of three resolutions aimed at the embattled coroner the council adopted at its meeting.
The council also adopted a resolution asking for the assistance of the state Attorney General’s Office in getting the documents needed from the Coroner’s Office to determine the minimum millage level needed for the efficient operation of the office.
The third resolution asks Galvan to return any money he received related to accumulated vacation.
The vote asking for Galvan to resign was 13-1. Parish Councilman Steve Stefancik cast the lone opposing vote. The other two resolutions passed unanimously.
“No one is more outraged than I at the reports of the alleged abuse of power in the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office,’’ Parish President Pat Brister said.
She called the situation a bad reflection on the entire parish.
St. Tammany Parish residents expect a higher standard, she said.
“It’s not just business, it’s personal,’’ Brister said.
She said she fully supported the council’s resolutions and also requested that Galvan resign immediately.
Council Chairman Jerry Binder said the Parish Council took the action in the face of questions about lavish spending that the coroner has not answered.
Councilman Marty Dean said he is disgusted by the coroner’s arrogance and greed, but reminded the audience that voters gave him his millage.
“Ask yourself how did he get that $14 million bucks? We voted it in,’’ he said, noting that he voted against it.
The result, he said, is huge surpluses, big salaries and abuse.
He recalled that Galvan brought an elderly crime victim to a council meeting in making his case for the tax.
“Beware of snake charmers,’’ Dean said.
Galvan was a no-show at the meeting Thursday despite the fact that parish officials had asked him to come to address questions about financial matters at his agency.
He also failed to provide documents and answer 14 questions submitted to him by the Parish Council on Feb. 25.
Binder and other council members stressed that the Parish Council has no authority over the Coroner’s Office.
“We can’t, right now, lower the coroner’s salary,’’ he said.
But he said that the Parish Council does have the authority to set millage rates, and the responsibility that goes along with it.
He noted that in 2004, St. Tammany Parish voters passed a 4-mill tax for the operation of the office, and the Parish Council rolled that back to 3.38 mills.
The Parish Council is prepared to roll that amount back further, Binder said, in order to put more money back in the coffers of local businesses and taxpayer’s pockets.
He estimated the revenue reduction could be as much as $1.7 million.
Binder began the discussion by noting that Galvan had sent an email saying he would not come to the meeting on the advice of his legal counsel and in view of pending and anticipated legislation.
Binder read aloud from the email, in which Galvan said that he is “eager to address the public at the proper time.’’
In the email, the coroner said he is working openly with agencies investigating and auditing his office.
That statement elicited derisive laughter from the packed council chambers.
“It is construed by many citizens as a violation of the public trust that can no longer be tolerated.’’