Auditor finds issues in the Louisiana Public Defenders Board

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A state legislative auditor report says the Louisiana Public Defender Board (LPDB) does not provide adequate oversight of capital defense services that the law requires. In a report released Monday auditor Daryl Purpera says the capital section of the state public defender's office has some issues.

"We looked at several things and one of the things we found was that they need to make some improvement in their oversight," says Purpera. "For example they need to be monitoring the on-going performance of the attorneys during the trials. They do some work up-front and they might at the end but we believe there needs to be some better procedures for the on-going litigation."

Another glaring finding is the tracking of costs associated with the individual death penalty cases. Each one of which is very expensive says defense attorneys.

However an adequate defense is state law for those accused of capital murder.

"They need to a better job of tracking the costs. At this point in time we really don't have a good grasp of what it costs to provide these services so we need them to track costs and that comes in tracking the time these attorneys are spending on the projects and also establishing a salary...a salary ranges and proper salary ranges for the attorneys who are performing these services," says Purpera. "Part of the problem it could be that they are not getting all the funding that they need from their local courts that the money...those dollars are not being collected properly and so the moneys not available to them. That's going to be the subject of another report by my office."

Robert Burns the vice chair of the public defender board issued response to the audit reading in part. "Each (LPDB) office has different reasons for the reduction of local revenues and LPDB agrees that it needs to identify the root causes for the reduction and to work with each district on possible solutions."

State public defender James Dixon eventually returned our phone calls and left a message after state work hours.