Heather Nolan – The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik – Fox 8 News/WVUE-TV
St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed is paid a $30,000-a-year “retainer” by the publicly owned St. Tammany Parish Hospital, without a contract or documents detailing what he does for the money, according to the hospital and financial disclosure forms.
The arrangement, Reed said in a statement, has lasted “for over 15 years,” with him “personally” on retainer as a private lawyer and not in his position as district attorney. Reed has declared annual $30,000 payments from the hospital as personal income in his sworn disclosure forms filed with the state since 2008, the first year the filings were required.
But Patti Ellish, the hospital’s president and chief executive officer, said in an email that the hospital is paying Reed in his official capacity as district attorney. When Reed cannot attend monthly board meetings, Ellish and Reed said one of Reed’s assistant district attorneys attends in his place.
Written by: Lee Zurik, Chief Investigative Reporter
Contributor: Heather Nolan, Reporter, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune
Contributor: Tom Wright, Investigative Producer
St. Tammany and Washington Parish District Attorney Walter Reed checks off the “full-time” box on his financial disclosure filings to the state. For a DA serving a two-parish region and its 285,000 residents, that’s hardly a surprise.
Taxpayers pay this full-time DA $184,000 a year.
Those same disclosure records show Reed also operates a private practice on the side, making more than $100,000 a year.
Reed reports to the state that, since 2008, he’s been making $30,000 a year working for St. Tammany Parish Hospital, a public institution. Reed responded in a letter to FOX 8 that he’s been doing work there “for over 15 years.” Every month, the hospital writes Reed a $2,500 check.
The hospital told us by email they have “no contract or agreement… in place.” And there are “no invoices” or anything else that shows what he did to earn the money – no proof, no record of exactly what Reed has done for the hospital.
We sent hospital president/CEO Patti Ellish an email, writing, “Just confirming the agreement is with Walter Reed attorney… separate from his office.”
She replied, “Let me correct your statement. Walter Reed is on retainer for legal services as the district attorney.”
Again, on his disclosure form, Reed claimed the hospital money is for his private practice. But the hospital itself says the arrangement is through Walter Reed, acting as district attorney.
When Reed is absent from meetings…”he sends an assistant district attorney to attend.”
Reed told us he sends one ADA in particular, Leo Hemelt, in his place. But he says, “Hemelt was acting as an attorney in private practice with no payment of public funds from the district attorney.”
But board minutes show that, when Hemelt attended, he was listed as an assistant district attorney.
At $184,000 a year, Reed now is the highest-paid elected official in St. Tammany Parish. And most years, he also receives a monthly car allowance of $950. But it’s his work on the side that raises questions, especially the work he does for the public hospital, and the potential mix of public and private resources.
Written by: Rob Masson
Our Louisiana Purchased series has uncovered new allegations of campaign spending irregularities by the St. Tammany district attorney, and now the state Ethics Board may be getting involved.
The group Louisiana United International has filed a request with the board, asking for a full investigation.
The request cites recent reports by FOX 8’s Lee Zurik and Heather Nolan with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. Those reports outline the transfer of funds from DA Walter Reed’s campaign accounts to family members and friends.
They also reveal what some say are huge overpayments for things like public service announcements and bar service to Reed’s son.