ST. BERNARD PARISH, LA (WVUE) - St Bernard Parish council members were embroiled in a power struggle with the parish president Wednesday, passing two ordinances over control of parish data and then waiting for the parish president to veto them. That veto came Tuesday evening.
The council was trying to take control of parish computers away from President David Peralta, who is under federal indictment.
"We're in a situation where we have someone under investigation in control of the I.T. system they're investigating," said Councilman George Cavignac.
The council vote came just hours after Peralta fired I.T. Director Jeffrey Brannon and Recovery Director Donnie Bourgeois, who have been cooperating with federal authorities investigating their former boss.
"Our I.T. director was fired. Paratech, our local contractor, is under investigation, and he is now in 100 percent control of our data in parish government, and we felt it best for them not to be in this building," said Councilman Guy McInnis.
Peralta refused a request for an interview today, but said both men were fired for cause. He claimed Brannon was using parish time to attend functions for a political opponent, and Peralta told FOX 8, that Bourgeois was fired for not seeking FEMA reimbursements as ordered. We put in a request for an interview with the employees' attorneys, but haven't heard back.
"I think this has put our parish in exposure for a lawsuit, and I expect that will happen," McInnis said.
Council members spent much of the day waiting for Peralta to veto their ordinances, which he did around 4 p.m. Peralta said he would do that because he said the council ordinances severed ties with Paratech, which Peralta says is crucial to the functioning of parish government.
Early Tuesday evening, Perlata released the following statement indicating that he had vetoed the council ordinances and declared a state of emergency:
Today, due to the reckless and illegal actions on the part of six members of the St. Bernard Parish Council, I hereby invoke a DECLARATION OF EMERGENCY that will ensure Parish Government's ability to provide both citizens and visitors to our Parish a safe and healthy environment.
The Parish Council passed two ordinances which would have in effect ended the critical internet and telephone systems necessary to operate Parish Government at a level to provide necessary Water, Sewer and Fire services and in effect seriously curtailing day to day operations of every department of Parish Government. After reviewing the parish charter and my legal obligations, I vetoed the ordinance. The Parish Council then overrode my veto placing the citizens of St. Bernard in jeopardy and forcing me to declare an emergency.
Further, in accordance with the St. Bernard Parish Charter, specifically Section 2-03 (Forfeiture of Office), I am calling for the immediate resignation of the Parish Councilmen who overrode my veto, and took actions that were in direct violation of the Parish Charter. Section 2-03 of the Parish Charter calls for the removal from office anyone who violates an express prohibition of the Charter. If there is a refusal of the councilmen to vacate their office I will be left with no other option but to file suit in the 34th Judicial District Court to have the matter adjudicated in favor of the Charter.
It is for the above reasons that I Veto Emergency Ordinance #1664-07-15 and hereby invoke a Declaration of Emergency.
Councilmembers said they would go into an emergency session to override the veto. Councilmember George Cavignac declined comment on Peralta's request to step down.