CHALMETTE, LA (WVUE) - A power struggle between St. Bernard Parish President Dave Peralta and the Parish Council continues after a contentious Wednesday saw Peralta declare a state of emergency following a decision made by the council.
Council members voted to freeze the IT budget and fired Peralta's hand-picked IT company, Paratech, after the parish president fired two government employees. Peralta fired Parish IT Director Jeff Brannon and Recovery Director Donny Bourgeois months after the pair filed for whistleblower protection from Peralta.
"As far as we're concerned, neither one of the terminations were right. They were wrongful terminations, and we're gonna seek all legal action that we can to clear their names," said attorney Alan Bouterie Jr., who represents both men.
Following the council's motions, Peralta declared a state of emergency, but the council nullified it Wednesday evening and restored the IT department's budget.
"As we stand today, we have a full IT budget, we have two employees in IT," Councilman Richard Lewis said. "They are very capable of keeping this system up and running. The parish president has the power and ability to hire any outside contractor that's allowed by law in this building to come and fix anything they cannot. He has the funds to do it and he has the authority to do it."
In a statement released to FOX 8 News late Thursday, Peralta claimed he declared the state of emergency because he was trying to protect the citizens of the parish.
"The passage of the initial ordinance was a reckless disregard for the safety of St. Bernard families. I wish to assure you that while the ordinance was in effect, I took legal emergency action to insure (sic) that there was NO disruption in service to St. Bernard," Peralta said in the statement.
As for the continued battle between the parish president and the council, it's still unclear how the leadership of the parish will proceed.
"I don't know what happens next. It's unpredictable when you get into these situations. It's a power struggle, but in my mind it really isn't a power struggle. I'm trying to do what's best for the people of St. Bernard parish," Lewis said.
But the citizens of the parish are just fed up with the fight, no matter who's to blame.
"Neither the president nor the council is doing the right thing. They need to come together and work as a team. This parish needs a lot to be done and no one is listening to the citizens," said St. Bernard resident Wilford Hill.