St Tammany, DeSoto DA Update – 7/17/14

DA Walter Reed used public money to pay for his medical co-pays and deductibles

Story by:
Heather Nolan – NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik – Fox 8 / Fox8live.com

St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed used public money to cover medical co-payments and prescriptions for himself and a half dozen other selected employees in his office over a three-year period, records provided to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News show.

The documents produced through a public records request show Reed and six other District Attorney’s Office employees – one of whom is now retired – received a combined $27,485 in medical reimbursements between 2011 and 2013. Records before 2011 were not available.

Of the seven employees who received reimbursements, Reed’s repayments were the highest at $11,864.

Public dollars were used to reimburse Reed for more than 200 prescriptions in the three-year period, the records show. That included more than $500 for Cialis, a prescription drug generally used to treat erectile dysfunction and symptoms of an enlarged prostate, according to the manufacturer’s website.

Belinda Parker-Brown, president of the civic group Louisiana United International and a critic of Reed, said the district attorney using public money to reimburse himself for personal medications “represents a clear pattern of an elected official going rogue.”

Records show other employees in Reed’s office received between $337 and $5,415 in medical reimbursements in the three years included in the records released. The six other employees that received benefits included Reed’s first assistant, his office manager, a division director, an administrative officer and an administrative assistant.

Post-DA future for Reed includes healthy pension

By Sara Pagones
spagones@theadvocate.com

Walter Reed’s decision not to run for re-election this fall means he’ll no longer be the highest-paid district attorney in Louisiana, but with three decades in office, his pension could bring him as much money in retirement as he has received as an officeholder.

How much Reed earns as district attorney for St. Tammany and Washington parishes isn’t completely clear. Last fall, in response to a public-records request by The New Orleans Advocate, the District Attorney’s Office provided a spreadsheet that listed his salary at $198,614. However, a disclosure form that Reed filed with the Louisiana Ethics Administration earlier in the year said he received $214,000 from public sources in 2012.

But whatever his salary is, the 68-year-old will continue getting a similar amount as a retiree.

Employees in the District Attorneys’ Retirement System get 3.5 percent of their pay for every year served, said Pete Adams, director of the system. Pensions are based on the average of the employee’s 60 highest months of pay.

A number of variables are involved in determining the pension amount, including whether the employee has designated a spouse as a beneficiary, Adams said. The exact amount isn’t figured out until employees file paperwork to start receiving their pensions. But with 30 years of service, Reed could well receive 100 percent of his current salary, Adams said.

Meanwhile, controversy has enveloped another Louisiana District Attorney, this one in DeSoto Parish.

Controversy erupts with DeSoto DA

By Vickie Wellborn

MANSFIELD — Undisclosed allegations of misconduct made against District Attorney Richard Johnson are behind the abrupt resignation of the attorney who served as his second-in-command.

Gary Evans stepped down from his appointed position as first assistant district attorney via a letter dated July 9. He made his departure effective Tuesday to allow time to complete pending work for various public agencies.

Evans declined Wednesday to go into detail about the allegations, saying, “I prefer you ask Mr. Johnson what those allegations are. I mean him no harm.”

Evans, who gave a copy of his letter to The Times today , said his decision to leave resulted from a private meeting between him and Johnson days earlier. “At that time I informed you of the very serious allegations of misconduct made against you. I passed the information on to you as quickly as I learned of same. You committed yourself to prayer to help make your mind up as to your course of action. I have not heard from you as to your decision. As I told you, I cannot continue to serve as your first assistant,” he wrote.

But whatever troubles are brewing – or not – for Johnson, a first-term district attorney who plans to seek reelection this fall, he has more difficulties looming when it comes to his personal finances. For the second time since his election in 2008, Johnson has been sued by the Internal Revenue Service for failure to file income taxes.

The IRS on March 18 filed a federal tax lien against Johnson totaling $103,137. The document on file with the DeSoto Parish Clerk of Court’s office lists specific amounts of unpaid taxes for years 2004 through 2011. Fines and penalties were assessed on different dates in 2010 and 2012. The highest unpaid balance was $29,389 for tax year 2009 that was assessed on Aug. 27, 2012.

A lien is the step the IRS takes when a taxpayer does not respond to a demand for payment. The lien is placed on all property, including Johnson’s home in the 300 block of Ginger Street in Mansfield and any additional property he may own, which according to his ethics disclosure form includes 13 acres somewhere in DeSoto Parish.

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