Parish president sued over alleged smear campaign - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Parish president sued over alleged smear campaign

Updated:
MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Former St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro is suing his successor, Dave Peralta, accusing him of orchestrating a politically motivated smear campaign that culminated in an unauthorized raid on a storage unit Taffaro used.

In a federal suit filed Thursday, Taffaro claims Peralta used a housing discrimination probe of the parish by the Justice Department as the pretext for having sheriff's deputies seize documents from his storage unit last month.

The suit also claims Peralta conspired with another parish official to anonymously leak false allegations of wrongdoing by Taffaro to news organizations and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, which hired Taffaro after Peralta defeated him in a November 2011 runoff.

Taffaro, now the state's director of hazard mitigation and recovery, is seeking more than $2.7 million in punitive and compensatory damages.

Peralta said in a statement Friday that he can't comment on the suit because he hadn't been served with it. Several other parish officials also are named as defendants.

"By engaging in the systemic poisoning of Taffaro's name and reputation, the defendants have effectively destroyed Taffaro's right to advance his career as a public servant in the future," his suit says.

The Justice Department sued St. Bernard Parish in January, claiming Taffaro and other parish officials used Hurricane Katrina recovery planning as an excuse to limit rental housing for black residents.

Taffaro's suit claims parish officials were pretending to comply with a federal magistrate's order for the parish to turn over documents related to the Justice Department' case when sheriff's deputies seized 19 boxes of records from his storage unit. It also claims a sheriff's deputy detailed to Peralta's office orchestrated the raid without the authorization of St. Bernard Parish Sheriff James Pohlmann.

Pohlmann declined to comment on that allegation.

Peralta served as the parish's chief administrative officer under Taffaro, who was elected in 2008. Taffaro's suit says he fired Peralta several months later for insubordination and dereliction of duties. His suit claims Peralta is retaliating for his firing by waging a "slander campaign" against Taffaro.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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