Whistleblower lawsuit against St. Tammany Coroner’s Office dismissed _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- St. Tammany parish coroner Peter Galvan leaves the federal courthouse in New Orleans after his arraignment, Wednesday, October 16, 2013.

Former St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan has been in federal prison for nearly eight months and has seen his two-year sentence grow to three years following a September guilty plea to state theft charges, but the fallout for the disgraced ex-official isn’t quite over yet.

The Louisiana Board of Ethics also has weighed in against Galvan, who will face a hearing on charges that he broke six state laws, committing ethical violations that included abuse of office and receiving payments to which he was not entitled.

The charges were published last week, and a hearing on them has not been scheduled. But the substance of the charges mirrors the pilfering of public money laid out in the federal bill of information that led to Galvan’s 2013 guilty plea to a single count of conspiracy to commit theft.

That included Galvan’s use of Coroner’s Office money to buy a marine generator for his boat and his getting paid for 1,125 hours of sick and vacation leave to which he wasn’t entitled.

The charges also dwell extensively on Galvan’s deal with the Slidell jail, a $50,000-a-year contract that he moved from the Coroner’s Office to his own private medical practice while continuing to use an employee of the public office to do the work — netting Galvan a total of nearly $127,000 in compensation, according to the Ethics Board, although a state Legislative Auditor’s Office report pegged the amount at about $400,000.

The jail contract also figured in the federal bill of information.

The Ethics Board charges say the jail deal broke four state laws governing transactions, including prohibitions against public servants participating in transactions that involve their government entity and in which they have a substantial economic interest. State law prohibits public servants, their immediate family members or legal entities in which they have a controlling interest from entering into any contract or transaction under the supervision of their agency and from receiving anything of economic value for any service when the subject matter is devoted substantially to the responsibilities, programs or operations of their agency.

Another state law prohibits public servants from using their authority to coerce anyone into providing them with anything of economic value. The Ethics Board charges point to the services of Mark Lombard, the Coroner’s Office employee who provided medical care to prisoners at the Slidell jail under the Galvan contract, saying he was coerced.

The federal bill of information pointed to two unnamed and unindicted co-conspirators, one of whom helped Galvan fulfill the jail contract. One apparently was Lombard, who resigned from the Coroner’s Office the same day as Galvan.

But while much of the Ethics Board case plows familiar ground, the charges also involve dealings the Coroner’s Office had with Galvan’s business partner, Mass Prentiss Blackwell Jr. — dealings that did not figure in either the federal or state charges against the former coroner.

The legislative auditor pointed to possible conflicts of interest involving Blackwell in a report released shortly after Galvan was charged in federal court. That report was more detailed than the federal bill of information and alleged that Galvan grabbed a larger amount of money.

Two deals involving Blackwell are cited, one a lease that made $95,082 for Jetcash LLC, a business owned by Blackwell. The Ethics Board cites the fact that Galvan and Blackwell owned Florida Parish Holdings LLC, a company created in November 2006, and that from July 2010 until July 2012 the Coroner’s Office leased space on Brownswitch Road in Slidell for $3,961.75 per month from Jetcash. Participating in a lease with a company owned by his business partner violated state law, the charges say.

The legislative auditor’s report also noted that Galvan had owned half of Jetcash prior to 2006 and that the firm had been fined $1,250 by the state Board of Ethics for the lease.

According to the audit report, Galvan exchanged his interest in Jetcash for land owned by Blackwell but swapped it back after the new Coroner’s Office in Lacombe was completed.

The Ethics Board also is targeting construction work performed for the Coroner’s Office by Three Deuces Inc., a company created by Blackwell in 1998. Galvan submitted two invoices totaling $9,635 to the Coroner’s Office for site work at its new facility.

That transaction violated state law because it involved a person with whom Galvan had a substantial economic interest, the charges say.

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.