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Press Release: Legal Lines with Locke Meredith

Inspector General Stephen Street

Show #90

Attorney Locke Meredith interviews Inspector General of Louisiana, Stephen Street, on his role in office.

Street graduated from LSU Law in 1989, then worked for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals before opening his own private firm.  In 1995, he began working for the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Defender.  This meant he got to see a lot of criminal cases, from murder to shoplifting. This enabled lots of good experience for Street. This position led to an opportunity for him to run the Attorney General’s Insurance Fraud Unit.

As Inspector General, Street oversees the entire executive branch of Louisiana Government, making sure that taxpayers’ dollars are not only used widely, but also to look at fraud, abuse, and corruption.  The executive branch includes the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, the cabinet, and over 500 boards and commissions, as well as the public colleges and universities.

With Louisiana having a poor reputation for ethics, the Federal Government has been leery on sending so much funding for the post-Katrina relief.  Street’s job has been to tighten the controls and for Louisiana to become known as a state that does business and government with integrity.

Recently, the Inspector General position has been made a permanent office, which gives it much more power.  One of these powers it has is subpoena power. A subpoena is a legal document that entitles us to request records or testimony from people.   The Inspector General ‘s office can now demand the production of documents and to also take depositions, with the approval of a judge.  To investigate the Legislative Branch, Street explains, is a similar position to his called the Legislative Auditor.

The Inspector General’s office has sixteen total staff, compared with two hundred and fifty in the Legislative Auditor’s staff.  Street explains that this disparity is due to the Inspector General’s office being a new (20 year old) position, and one that has only recently been given permanent power.   If you want to file a complaint to the Inspector General, you can do it online, by phone, in person, or by fax.  You can file your complaints anonymously too.  State employees are especially encouraged to file complaints thanks to a strong Whistle Blower protection law.  It is now illegal to threaten to retaliate against a State employee for bringing a complaint forward.

As far as the process goes, in reviewing complaints: the Inspector General’s office has been given a mandate by the Governor to focus on fraud and corruption, so these get priority.  If the IG decides to investigate a case, then they will interview witnesses, collect evidence, and then prepare report that will eventually be publicly issued.  Then the agency or entity has a chance to respond, and their response is attached to the report as it is sent to the Governor’s office.  Currently there is legislation in action that will allow the Inspector General’s signature alone to enable the report to be publicly issued, instead of needing the Governor’s signature.

Two reports have been recently issued.  One involves the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors and that involved a member of the Contractor Board that was holding up applications because the applicants owed money to his sons company.  The other involves improper use of State issued visa cards, splitting up purchases, just basic improper use of those cards.

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