When exactly did St. Bernard Parish government descend into farce?
Was it when Parish President David Peralta’s disturbingly messy private life spilled out into public?
When his wife accused him of rape and he countered that she’d engaged in bondage voluntarily, that she “enjoyed fantasy rape”?
When he insisted that his constituents would understand, because nobody “has plain vanilla sex anymore”?
Was it when the indictments starting piling up? The first one, for the alleged sexual battery of now former spouse Sharon Schaefer, has been dismissed but could re-emerge.
The second, for allegedly stalking and harassing her, is very much alive. So is a third, for possible campaign finance violations that included accusations that expenses he’d claimed as restaurant meals for strategy meetings actually had funded a gambling habit — and for perjury, following a clearly failed attempt to explain away the evidence in testimony to the grand jury.
Was it when he refused various pleas by other officials to step aside, to have his day in court but not bring the parish’s reputation down in the process?
Was it just recently, when Peralta fired two parish employees who are cooperating with the authorities investigating him, including his own former campaign manager?
Peralta claimed he didn’t know of their involvement and terminated them for job-related reasons.
But both have been mentioned in court proceedings as likely state witnesses, and Peralta has in the past sought to access their text and email records from their personal cellphones.
One of the ousted employees, former technology director Jeffrey Brannon, is expected to testify in the stalking case that he helped Peralta set up several phony email addresses.
If it hadn’t happened already, parish government certainly crossed that threshold Wednesday, when Peralta declared a state of emergency, designated the parish a “disaster area” and called on a majority of the Parish Council to resign.
In his view, they’re the ones who are unfit to hold public office. If they don’t comply, Peralta insisted, he’d have no choice but to sue.
In an extra bit of irony, Peralta’s stated rationale for going after council members was that they had improperly invoked emergency proceedings.
The order followed a face-off between the administrative and legislative branches over a deal with a tech company that, it so happens, also has received a criminal target letter from the Attorney General’s Office.
The council voted to terminate a contract with the firm ParaTech LLC because members believe its owner is too close to Peralta.
Peralta vetoed the measure, but the council overrode him. The council also voted to keep the administration from moving money from another department to pay ParaTech. He vetoed that too, and the council once more overrode his veto.
It’s worth noting that, historically, St. Bernard has a pretty high tolerance for, um, colorful behavior from its chief executives.
Lynn Dean once ate a handful of duckweed to prove his point that the slimy mess covering the pond at Sidney Torres Park wasn’t as stinky as residents claimed.
Junior Rodriguez used his walking cane to “goose” President George W. Bush on one of his post-Katrina visits.
Rodriguez insisted the former president took it well, but word was that the Secret Service was none too pleased.
During Holy Week in 2010, Craig Taffaro went around the building and asked if employees wanted him to wash their feet.
Peralta’s yet another weird one, but his offenses aren’t merely head-scratching. At this point, they are actively undermining both the dignity and integrity of the office.
St. Bernard has a disaster on its hands, all right. His name is David Peralta.