Ex-Louisiana VA secretary sues legislative auditor, inspector general for defamation

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One year after a state audit accused ex-Louisiana Veteran's Affairs Secretary David LaCerte of bad hiring and book keeping and of exaggerating his own military record, LaCerte is suing for defamation.

"All he wants is an opportunity to clear his name, which he was flatly denied a year ago," said LaCerte's attorney, Jill Craft.

LaCerte resigned as VA secretary in 2015 amid of an investigation into a record-keeping scandal at one of the state's veteran homes. Four months later, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera and Inspector General Stephen Street revealed another audit focusing on LaCerte's leadership and complaints their offices received. The audit accused LaCerte of giving a state contract to a classmate, of mismanaging funds, and of illegal travel practices. It also accused LaCerte of not reporting possibly criminal activity at the veteran homes and of lying about his service record.

In an exclusive 2016 interview with 9News, Lacerte called the charges "garbage." Now he wants to prove it in court. The lawsuit claims the audit examined about five years of VA leadership practices, but that LaCerte was only in charge for about two of those years.

"Someone needs to explain to me if they aren't out to hurt this man, my client, why is it that the other folks who are in charge with Veteran's Affairs aren't even listed by name in the report," said Craft.

The lawsuit also says the auditor and inspector general's attack on LaCerte's military record was completely without merit or purpose, and destroyed his career and reputation. "To have the legislative auditor, whose job it is not even to do that, come in and say everything he did was illegitimate, is terrible," said Craft.

The lawsuit names Inspector General Stephen Street and Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera. At the time of this publishing, both Street and Purera said they were still reviewing the lawsuit. However, both said they were confident in their initial findings.

"My office is very careful in our audits and stands behind every word of this report," said Purpera.

"The OIG stands behind every word of the LDVA report with absolutely no reservations at all," said Street.

The full lawsuit can be read below:

RELATED STORIES:

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.