Last month, St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed’s brother flashed an honorary DA’s Office badge at Covington officers as he tried to explain why they shouldn’t do anything about the incapacitated woman slumped in the back seat of his car.
A week later, Richard Reed was booked on a count of sexual battery, and the DA’s Office had taken back the badge that it described as purely honorary in nature — a keepsake given to family and friends.
But while Richard Reed’s badge is back in the office, it’s a complete mystery to the public how many others are still at large.
The New Orleans Advocate submitted three public-records requests to the office seeking the names of people who received such honorary commissions. The office initially said there was no such list and then ignored the second two requests, which sought paperwork associated with the commissions.
Last week, Reed finally responded to attorneys for the newspaper, admitting that the office has no records on badges provided to people who are not employees.
“As a result of the incident involving the arrest of Richard Reed, the badge and credentials involved in that incident was obtained from Richard Reed, and returned to the DA’s office where it will be retained,” a letter signed by Walter Reed said.
“While an effort was made to determine whether there were any ‘list’ for such badges, we were still unable to find any such ‘list,’ ” he wrote.
The first public-records request asked for the names of those holding badges, but the second and third requests specifically asked for the commissions themselves or any paperwork filled out by the recipients.
The newspaper also asked for any communications from the office seeking the return of badges. Only one badge and one set of credentials have been returned, according to the office — Richard Reed’s.
“To my knowledge, there are no emails, letters or communications seeking any sort of recall of badges/commissions that are responsive to your request,” Walter Reed said in the letter.
Reed said the office will no longer issue badges or credentials to anyone who is not an employee. The credentials carry no weight of law, he said, and anyone who has them should not use them in an improper manner.
Goodbye, Robert Rees — we hardly knew ye
The surprise last-minute qualifier in the race to replace Walter Reed has withdrawn, leaving a four-member field in contention to become district attorney of St. Tammany and Washington parishes.
Robert B. “Robbie” Rees was always something of a mystery candidate in the hotly contested race. He qualified on the final day, and reporters were unable to contact him. He did not participate in either of the two forums that have been held so far, one hosted by Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany and the other by the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce.
Late last week, he slipped off the ballot just as quietly. Meg Casper, of the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office, said his withdrawal was registered on Aug. 29.
Rees could not be reached for comment about his decision.
The four remaining candidates are Slidell lawyer Alan Black, Covington lawyer Roy Burns, Covington lawyer Warren Montgomery and Brian Trainor, who is on a leave of absence from his job as chief deputy with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Reed, who is embroiled in investigations by a federal grand jury and the state Legislative Auditor’s Office, announced in July that he would not seek a sixth term.
Burns pans DA’s deal with School Board
Roy Burns, one of the four remaining candidates in the DA’s race, has been quick to jump on any news report that raises questions about Walter Reed’s stewardship of the office.
He didn’t miss a beat last week when The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV published a report on Harry Pastuszek, a member of Walter Reed’s staff whose private law firm is paid handsomely to represent the St. Tammany Parish School Board.
Burns, who was an assistant district attorney under Reed’s predecessor, called the Pastuszek firm’s billings — which have totaled close to $500,000 per year — an outrage that would not be tolerated if he were elected DA.
“When I was an assistant district attorney, I was assigned to serve the School Board,” Burns said in a prepared statement. “Do you know what I earned? My salary. I didn’t bill the School Board separately for my legal services because it was part of my job.”
It is common practice in Louisiana for DA’s offices to provide legal counsel to other governmental bodies, but Burns said those agencies should get quality service and the lowest possible cost.
Pastuszek’s generous public retirement package also drew heat from Burns, who said the fact it was paid for by the DA’s Office, the School Board and both St. Tammany and Washington parishes “boggles the mind and shocks the conscience.’’
Compiled by staff writer Sara Pagones