The Investigators: Allegations of missing records, possible cover-up at Jackson veterans home

The Investigators: Allegations of missing records, possible cover-up at Jackson veterans home
David LaCerte (Source: WAFB)
David LaCerte (Source: WAFB)
War Veterans Home in Jackson, La. (Source: WAFB)
War Veterans Home in Jackson, La. (Source: WAFB)

JACKSON, LA (WAFB) - The State Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David LaCerte resigned Thursday afternoon amid an investigation into the department by the Inspector General's Office.

"Our office along with the Legislative Auditor is conducting an investigation of the War Veterans Home in Jackson, La, and I'm not going to be able to provide any details right now," said the Inspector General's Chief Investigator Greg Phares.

A search warrant obtained by The Investigators gave a lot more insight into the investigation.

It said the IG's office is conducting an investigation for what appears to be "injuring public records." In this case, a patient's medical records were allegedly destroyed.

When The Investigators approached the administrator of the home, John Salter, he denied anything was wrong.

"We don't have any investigations presently, and we're not authorized to speak to the media," said Salter.

The warrant said there was an incident with a patient at the home. An employee at the home reportedly told the IG investigator:

"As the facility safety officer, she, along with assistant administrator Gus Freche, were assigned by administrator John Salter, to investigate an incident of a patient falling out of a bed at the facility on March 29, 2015. She indicated that their investigation determined that a fall did occur and that records and or documents pertaining to (the patient) were deleted or were missing. She indicated that as part of her investigation, she confirmed that facility director of nursing, Todd Price, deleted the original incident report on April 1, 2015."

Kiran: Did the Inspector General's office come out here and conduct an search warrant here in August?
Salter: No.
Kiran: They did not?
Salter: Not to my knowledge, no.
Kiran: Is one of your nurses on leave right now?
Salter: Umm, again, we're not able to speak to you guys about anything.
Kiran: Were any documents deleted as far as a patient goes?
Salter: I can't speak to that. 

The warrant indicates allegations of a cover-up go as far up as the State Department of Veterans Affairs.

"She further stated that their investigation was hampered when she and Freche were prohibited from completing interviews pertaining to the incident by State Veterans Affairs Nursing Director, Linda Theriot, of the Department of Veterans Affairs Headquarters staff."

Kiran: Did you get word from the State Veterans Affairs office to stop an investigation?
Salter: No, and again, I can't speak to it. 

"They deserve better care than this. They deserve the best care they can get," said Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

Purpera is referring to our country's veterans. He said the home in Jackson is one of five veterans homes in the state that a recent audit found were not providing the best possible care.

The State Department of Veterans Affairs is responsible for keeping tabs on all five of the homes in question. However, Purpera said their audit found many times, the state is not providing the necessary checks and balances to those homes.

"The Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs is not collecting data and using the data to monitor whether or not individual homes are actually complying with all the procedures they have," said Purpera.

There is no indication in the warrant whether investigators believe any other patient records are missing or possibly destroyed.

While the head of the State Department of Veterans Affairs, David LaCerte, is not named in the warrant, he gave his resignation around 3 p.m. Thursday. State leaders would not say why he stepped down.

On Sept. 23, 2015 at a legislative hearing, LaCerte defended the homes under his department's watch.

"These veterans are receiving the very best care at the very best veterans homes in the entire nation," said LaCerte at the hearing.

Late Thursday afternoon, Governor Bobby Jindal appointed Thomas Enright to head up the department for the remaining few months of Jindal's administration. Enright, a veteran himself, also serves as a lawyer for the governor.

Copyright 2015 WAFB. All rights reserved.