Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera named in defamation lawsuits

LLA defamation suit

(WAFB) - The state legislative auditor could soon be on trial over comments he made to the news media. Local attorney, Jill Craft, claims Daryl Purpera smeared the images of two of her clients.

The state legislative auditor office’s serves citizens by providing facts, in-depth analyses, and recommendations that hold state agencies accountable and ultimately help decision makers. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office routinely sends out reports of the agencies under review. Those reports include a short summary highlighting the contents of the typically lengthy reports.

“It’s an audit report for dummies, is what I call it,” Craft said.

Craft says some of the phrases Purpera uses on that page are outright inflammatory. “Their job is to audit books and records. Their job is to make sure state monies are spent correctly. Their job is make sure state money is accounted for. Their job is not to grand stand and defame people in press releases,” Craft said.

Craft is representing two clients in defamation cases against Purpera. One of them is the former head of Veterans Affairs David LeCerte. The audit called into question the legitimacy of Secretary LeCerte’s military service record, of which Craft says her client does have documented proof. In the summary, the auditor zeroed in on what it called “travel violations." Craft says that presentation of the information crosses the line.

“You don’t, in the process, need to be issuing these glossy press releases that literally have bubbles and cut outs and designed inflamed and use catch phrases like me was caught with such and such. That’s not an audit. That’s a target,” Craft said.

According to court documents, Purpera, in his role as legislative auditor, claimed he was “absolutely immune” from defamation suits. But the courts disagreed. Craft acknowledges Purpera’s right to free speech, but says those comments should never be acceptable on paper. She’s fighting to make sure in the future, the state just sticks to the facts.

The auditor’s general counsel, Jenifer Schaye, says she does not see a basis for the lawsuits and claimed the auditor’s office has the facts to back up everything they say in their press releases.

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