St Tammany DA Update – 6/20/14

Another subpoena issued surrounding Tammany DA

By Sara Pagones

The member of St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed’s staff who sometimes stood in for him at St. Tammany Parish Hospital board meetings has been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury, sources familiar with the situation said Thursday.

Leo Hemelt, an assistant district attorney, was served a subpoena while vacationing in Florida with his family, the sources said.

WVUE-TV and nola.com reported that at least 10 subpoenas were sent to members of Reed’s staff. Those reports, which cited unnamed sources, did not identify the staff members. Reporters from various media outlets staked out the grand jury room in federal court in New Orleans on Thursday, but no one from Reed’s office was spotted.

The question of how Hemelt was paid is important in determining whether Reed enriched himself from work that was at least partly billed to taxpayers — a situation potentially similar to that of former St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan, who benefited from a private contract to provide medical services to Slidell jail inmates. That work was actually done by a Coroner’s Office employee, whose salary was paid by the public.

In response to a public-records request, St. Tammany Parish Hospital provided copies of 1099 tax forms it mailed to Reed from 2008 to 2013. They show that Reed was paid the full amount each year — $30,000 — except for 2010, when he was paid $32,500. The forms indicate the money went to Reed and not the District Attorney’s Office.

Meanwhile, the checks from the hospital were made out to “Reed, Walter,” at the address of the District Attorney’s Office: 701 N. Columbia St. in Covington.

Reed’s explanation of his arrangement with the hospital is at odds with the one offered by the hospital. Hospital CEO Patti Ellish said prior to Reed’s resignation that he “is on retainer for legal services as the district attorney,” and noted that when Reed could not make a meeting he “sent a subordinate in his place.”

WVUE and nola.com reported that Hemelt attended two of the last 16 board meetings in Reed’s stead.

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