St Tammany DA Update – 8/14/14

Walter Reed used campaign money to hire criminal defense attorney’s law firm

Heather Nolan – NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik – WVUE Fox 8 News

District Attorney Walter Reed, who’s under investigation by federal authorities, has used more than $12,200 in campaign funds to pay his criminal defense attorney’s law firm for what Reed called an “attorney for the campaign fund,” according to Reed’s latest campaign finance report.

Reed’s campaign also paid for a public opinion poll just weeks before he announced he would not be seeking re-election, and for Reed to hire a spokesman as the once-powerful district attorney faced growing questions about his campaign spending and the use of public money in his office, the records show.

In a report filed August 6 with the state Ethics Administration, Reed listed a $12,277 payment to the Hailey, McNamara, Hall, Larmann and Papale Law Firm in Metairie for legal fees. Rick Simmons, a partner in that firm, “has been retained as counsel for the Walter Reed Campaign Fund,” said Reed’s spokesman, Morgan Stewart, in a statement Wednesday. The statement also said Reed consulted past Ethics Board opinions before authorizing the payment to Simmons’ firm, and that the expense was “related to Walter Reed’s ‘holding of public office.'”

“There is nothing unusual or unorthodox about campaign committees retaining the services of an attorney,” Stewart’s statement said.

Sources have confirmed Reed also has hired Simmons as his criminal defense attorney.

Stewart cited three opinions from the Ethics Board that said politicians can use campaign funds to pay for legal fees related to the campaign finance law, and to defend themselves from a Judiciary Commission complaint.

Reed tapping campaign funds to pay counsel

SARA PAGONES and KATIE MOORE

Walter Reed, the embattled district attorney for St. Tammany and Washington parishes, is tapping his sizable campaign war chest to pay for legal representation as a federal grand jury probe into his office heats up.

State ethics laws bar politicians from spending campaign money on personal uses. But lawyer Rick Simmons said the $12,278 that Reed has paid him so far is strictly for issues related to his campaign fund.

Simmons, of the New Orleans law firm Hailey McNamara Hall, said he is also representing Reed on issues related to ethics, but campaign money is not being used for that work.

Morgan Stewart, a public-relations consultant recently hired by Reed, said there is nothing unusual about a campaign committee retaining an attorney’s services.

“Campaigns nationwide, be they for the City Council or president of the United States, use attorneys for many concerns, specifically campaign financing and other campaign regulatory issues. Attorneys are called upon to give legal advice and render services regarding a number of situations,” Stewart said in an email.

Reed’s campaign records do not show any payments to lawyers during the past five years, save for the recent payment to Simmons.

Walter Reed sought extra parish funds in years he approved extra benefits for himself, select employees

Heather Nolan – NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik – WVUE Fox 8 News

St. Tammany District Attorney Walter Reed’s office sought and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra funding from the Parish Council in recent years, just as Reed was using public dollars to pay for cushy benefits for himself and select employees in his office.

Revelations about the special benefits, and the expectation of yet another request for extra money by Reed’s office this year, prompted Parish President Pat Brister to call for a legislative auditor’s review that can shed light on what exactly Reed’s office is doing with that parish money, Brister said in an interview.

In her first extensive public comments about the scandal that has engulfed the once-powerful district attorney, Brister said,”Certainly it’s a concern, and those are the questions that I’m being asked. What are we doing to look at their budget and look to make sure that we are sending them is being used in the correct manner,” Brister said. “It’s a concern of mine and of citizens who are calling about it.”

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