A West Bank justice of the peace under investigation by the state Legislative Auditor’s Office was granted a court order Thursday temporarily blocking the release of a report that could outline alleged misuse of funds in his office.
Patrick Dejean, of the Jefferson Parish 2nd Justice Court, who is being investigated along with his constable, Antoine “Tony” Thomassie, was granted a preliminary injunction by Baton Rouge Judge Don Johnson.
The Legislative Auditor’s Office confirmed receipt of the injunction but would not comment on it.
The report was expected to be released in coming weeks.
Dejean, who works in Marrero and won re-election in December, contends that Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera does not have the authority to investigate his office because he is a judge and is under the jurisdiction of the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Preliminary injunctions are granted by judges to keep things as they are temporarily and give them time to rule, and it is not clear whether Dejean will get the permanent injunction he seeks.
State law says the legislative auditor, “at his discretion, may require a justice of the peace or constable to have an audit of his books.”
Dejean, who could not be reached for comment, claims the fees his office collects are not public funds and should not be subject to the scrutiny of the legislative auditor. He also contends the Auditor’s Office will not give him the names of the accounts it is investigating, which he says would allow him to provide exculpatory evidence.
Dejean contends in the request for the injunction that when state auditors arrived at his office to examine bank accounts related to Thomassie, he asked if he was being investigated, and they told him he was not.
Thomassie, who lost his bid for re-election, is being investigated for amassing more than $90,000 in travel expenses over a three-year period and giving out as many as 70 badges to deputy constables who paid him $20 a week to carry them.
He also was rapped by the state Board of Ethics for not keeping separate bank accounts for work and personal expenses and for hiring his wife to handle wage garnishments. A local television station reported accusations he was spending time in a West Bank bar during times when he was supposed to be working.
Despite his claim that the legislative auditor does not have the right to audit him, Dejean said in his petition for an injunction that when he learned of the allegations of Thomassie’s misdeeds, he reported them to, among other entities, the Legislative Auditor’s Office.
WDSU-TV reported last summer that Dejean was being sued by a New Orleans bank that claimed he used his office to secure $53,000 in personal loans.
While it is not clear just what the legislative auditor’s investigation involves, Dejean claims in court documents that if the findings are released, “people will question the integrity of the court and its proceedings.”
The Jefferson Parish Inspector General’s Office on Wednesday questioned the amount of money the parish spends on its justices of the peace and constables, some of whom report more than $200,000 a year in income.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.