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Former State Veterans Affairs head accused of cronyism and lying about military service

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BATON ROUGE - A state audit published early Monday morning paints a damning portrait of a former Jindal appointee.

David LaCerte, the former head of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, is accused of several shady activities ranging from cronyism to cover-ups.

LaCerte had worked for LDVA since 2010, first as the Deputy-Secretary. He became Secretary in June 2014, holding the top position until his abrupt resignation in October 2015.

At that time is was revealed LDVA employees were under criminal investigation, accused of covering-up crimes at several state-run veteran nursing homes.

Monday's audit intensifies the accusations and points a stern finger at LaCerte himself.

The audit reports LaCerte had a habit of hiring or conducting state business with friends and former classmates. He allegedly allowed those employees to operate with little supervision.

In March of 2013, LaCerte created the position of "internal auditor" at LDVA, hiring one of his former classmates who reported directly to him.

LaCerte and the internal auditor allegedly used tax-payer money to take an unauthorized trip last June to Destin, Florida: "Mr. LaCerte did not have a travel authorization for this trip, and it was instead included on the internal auditor's travel authorization form that Mr. LaCerte himself approved. State travel policies mandate that employees' travel must be approved by their supervisor in writing, which means that approving one's own travel is not allowed."

Another incident involving LaCerte's friends was a consulting company doing state work without a contract. The unnamed company is owned by two of LaCerte's former law school classmates. The company received $44,128 for work it did between January 2014 and September 2015. State law requires a contract to be drawn up and reviewed by a separate agency whenever consulting work is done costing more than $2,000.

The audit also reports LaCerte may have falsified some of his military service. The audit notes complaints from the public were filed against LaCerte as early as 2013 for his service claims. Among them, he claimed to have underwent interrogation training when he was a Marine but auditors report that is not listed on his official military record.

LaCerte is also accused of misusing a state vehicle. He was allegedly chauffeured around Baton Rouge in a state-owned SUV that was actually designated for use at a veterans cemetery in Slidell. LaCerte allegedly double-dipped in his vehicle use. He would routinely use the state-owned SUV when he was already receiving a $500 monthly stippen to cover the use of his personal vehicle. He receive $8,308 in monthly vehicle stippens from June 2014 to October 2015.

Other alleged misconduct involves crimes against patients at state run veterans nursing homes. In one incident LaCerte allegedly failed to report one of his employees stealing from a patient's bank account in 2013.

In another incident, an employee allegedly falsified medical records surrounding the death of a nursing home patient. Prior to dying, the employee was not checking on the patient who had suffered a fall. The medical records were allegedly falsified to show that the patient had been checked on multiple occasions. That employee has since been fired.

The audit also reports 116 accident reports were deleted at multiple state veteran nursing homes. Most of those accidents involved patients falling. LDVA employees have since been instructed to not delete any accident report from the agency's computer system.

LDVA agreed with many of the claims in the audit and reported it has disciplined employees.

A lawyer for David LaCerte labels many of the auditors' claims as "character assassination."


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