BATON ROUGE — One year after a state audit accused former Louisiana Veterans
Affairs Secretary David LaCerte of flawed bookkeeping and bad hiring practices,
LaCerte is suing the state's inspector general and executive auditor for
The lawsuit was filed in the 19th Judicial District Court.
State investigators accused LaCerte last year of
mismanaging the agency that cares for veterans and of exaggerating his military
LaCerte began working for the department in June 2010 and became secretary of veterans affairs in 2014. He resigned in
October 2015 during a record-keeping scandal in his department.
In 2016, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera and the
state’s Inspector General Stephen Street released a scathing audit that accused
LaCerte of giving a state contract to a classmate, mismanaging funds and not reporting criminal activity against veterans that may have taken place at
“We believe the attacks on Mr. LaCerte’s credibility
were clearly not within the scope of the duties of either the IG’s office nor
of the LLA,” Jill Craft, LaCerte’s attorney, told the Louisiana Record. “We are
still unclear why the offices felt it necessary to go to such great lengths to
try and smear Mr. LaCerte and his service to our country. Mr. LaCerte served our country with honor and
distinction. Mr. LaCerte adamantly
denies the charges against him and brought this lawsuit to vindicate his name and
reputation. He feels very confident in
his case and seeks only justice – whatever shape or form justice takes in this
The complaint alleges that the joint investigation
report released by Purpera and Street on Feb. 1, 2016, contains, “false,
defamatory, slanderous and libelous statements disseminated by defendants to
the public and in the media, including television stations throughout Louisiana
and to the print media, falsely accusing LaCerte of improper and illegal travel
reimbursement, improper organizational practices, improper illegal pay practices,
improper hiring practices, falsifying public records, to-wit LaCerte’s military
service record. LaCerte further shows that the false statements contained in
the document were made with actual malice and/or reckless indifference to the
general counsel to Purpera, said that the report is true.
“There was no malice or intent on the part of
Street or Purpera," she said. "The audit report speaks for itself.”
Schaye said LaCerte had a chance to respond to the
report a year ago.
“When they write an audit report, they gave him a
chance to read it and respond to it, even in writing,"
she said. "He had a chance to come
forward at that time if he had a complaint."
Because it is a tort case, Schaye said Purpera will be
defended by outside counsel.
In the complaint, LaCerte alleges that, due to the
actions of Street and Purpera, he is seeking damages for
harm to his name and
reputation, loss of standing in the community, humiliation and embarrassment,
loss of earning capacity, lost wages and benefits, impairment of his right to
engage in his chosen occupation, severe emotional distress, medical expenses and more.
LaCerte has requested a jury trial.