One candidate for St. Tammany Parish coroner is slugging it out in court as well as on the campaign trail: Candidate Robert Muller has filed a legal petition against candidate Leanne Truehart, a psychiatrist who does work under contract with the Coroner’s Office, seeking her emails with other employees.
Muller, a Slidell gynecologist, also named interim Coroner Pramod Menon and the office itself in a petition filed Friday in 22nd Judicial District Court seeking release of various documents.
Muller’s petition says he asked for all records of payments made to Truehart for services she performed in committing patients for mental health care. He also asked for all payroll records, including vacation and overtime, for Truehart, all her emails and all documents she authored or generated while working for the coroner, except those containing protected health information.
Muller’s petition says he asked for the records on Dec. 10 but as of Jan. 17 had received only some of them and none of Truehart’s emails.
Salaries under former Coroner Peter Galvan have been a hot-button issue. Truehart’s contract calls for her to receive $180,000 a year for working 35 hours a week.
Galvan was paid more than $200,000 a year, but the Parish Council has voted to set the new coroner’s salary at $84,000.
Muller said Monday that he sought the documents in order to understand what’s going on at the office. “I’m not on a witch hunt,’’ he said.
But he did criticize Truehart on his campaign website. “She’s campaigning on bringing transparency back to this office, but there is obviously no transparency indicated by her failure to comply with our requests for public records,’’ he said.
Menon, who was appointed in November to fill the vacancy left by Galvan’s resignation, said the office has given Muller 16 of the 18 items he requested. Those that haven’t been turned over are Truehart’s emails — which Menon said are proving time-consuming and costly to produce — and a request for records of all funds transferred from the coroner to the parish and the reasons why. Menon said no such transfers have taken place, and the money actually flows from the parish to the coroner.
Muller said the public records are being produced at his cost — not the public’s. He paid a $50 deposit and another $218 on Jan. 17, when he picked up three disks and 236 pages of documents from the Coroner’s Office, he said. So far, he said, he has received 5,000 pages that he has gone through but that loose ends remain.
Menon said his office told Muller it would cost at least $250 per Coroner’s Office employee to produce Truehart’s email exchanges with them. He said Muller told him he would get back to him, and the next thing he knew, Muller had gone to court.
Two other candidates are running for the office: Adrian Talbot, a primary care doctor in Slidell, and Charles Preston, an emergency medicine doctor.