Just before 2 p.m. Friday, a St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s employee hand-delivered a letter to the Secretary of State’s office. The letter was Coroner Peter Galvan’s formal resignation of his post as of 5:30 p.m. Friday.
The letter, just one sentence of text, was short; but the process had taken most of the day. Early Friday morning, Galvan faxed a resignation letter to Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s office. However, since the letter was not notarized, it could not be accepted as an official notice, a Schedler spokeswoman said. The hand-delivered letter was notarized, she said.
Galvan’s letter reads: “Please accept this correspondence as my official resignation as St. Tammany Coroner effective October 18, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.”
The letter is signed by Galvan.
Galvan’s resignation had been expected after federal charges against the embattled coroner were made public last week.
On Wednesday, Galvan pleaded not guilty to charges in a federal bill of information that he conspired with other coroner’s office employees to take pay for sick and leave time to which he was not entitled and used coroner’s office resources to fill a contract held by his private medical practice.
Being charged in a bill of information and not a federal indictment is almost always a sign that a plea deal has been negotiated. Galvan is expected to change his plea to guilty in the coming weeks.
With Galvan’s resignation, Chief Deputy Coroner Michael DeFatta would normally assume the title of interim coroner until an election could be held. But DeFatta, in a letter to the Parish Council and Parish President Pat Brister, declined to accept the post.
“After long deliberation and conferring with my family, I must respectfully decline to accept the post,” DeFatta wrote in a letter dated Oct. 15.
DeFatta said he would continue to serve as chief deputy, as he has for 13 years.
According to DeFatta’s letter, it then falls to the parish president and/or Parish Council to appoint an interim Coroner. DeFatta recommended Leanne Trueheart, currently serving as deputy coroner and mental health director.