Less than a month after he was indicted by a grand jury for alleged sexual battery of his now-estranged wife, St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta is facing an effort to remove him from office before his term ends next year.
This is actually the second attempt by Arabi resident Peter Rupp to recall Peralta.
In 2012, Rupp submitted a petition to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office to hold a recall election, but he failed to collect even half of the required 8,500 signatures from registered voters in the parish.
His latest petition was received by the secretary of state on Monday. Rupp will have 180 days to collect signatures, which must be verified before an election would be called.
Peralta’s pending criminal charges are just one component of Rupp’s criticism of the parish president.
Rupp said he is banking that other recent problems in the parish — including a rare brain-eating amoeba that turned up in the parish water supply and is blamed for the death of a 4-year-old — will give his push more legs than two years ago.
“It’s not any one particular thing, and at no point do I judge the man on his personal merit, because that isn’t what we do, but on professional merit, and the man has not shown us in two years that he has the interest, the capacity or the ability to continue to serve as the parish president,” Rupp said.
Peralta’s wife, Sharon Peralta, has said her husband raped her in October at their Meraux home. Peralta has denied it, saying the couple instead engaged in “rough sex” on her 49th birthday, at her request. A state grand jury on April 23 handed up an indictment against Peralta for sexual battery, a lesser felony than rape.
Peralta blames Rupp’s animus on a more personal dispute: Peralta’s decision to fire Rupp’s wife, Samantha, from her position as a legal secretary. Peralta said in an interview that Samantha Rupp was let go because she gave her husband her access code to enter parish government buildings, which is not allowed. He also noted that Rupp was removed from the parish’s Housing, Redevelopment and Quality of Life Authority Commission for missing too many meetings, a rebuke that Peralta believes may still stick in his craw.
Rupp, who narrowly lost a runoff election for the Parish Council’s District B seat in 2011, said his renewed effort to oust Peralta isn’t about personal differences.
“I didn’t support him in the (president’s) election” before his wife was fired, Rupp said. He also disputed Peralta’s version of what occurred with the security codes. He contends he has internal documents showing that the code was used but not accepted, so that neither he nor his wife was able to enter restricted areas.
Reached by a reporter, Peralta said he wasn’t aware of the recall effort but that it doesn’t worry him. “I’m not going to concern myself with that,” he said. “I have a job to do.”
He speculated that Rupp “has some resentment toward parish government, and I guess toward me, and I would say that this is probably his motivation behind filing for a recall.”
Saying that Rupp is within his rights to file the petition, Peralta emphasized that he is “absolutely” running for re-election next year.
“A recall is a perfectly legal process,” he said. “I respect that process, and he can do what he needs to do.”
Rupp said he’s got a more effective strategy for his this recall attempt, but he declined to reveal details. “We’re going to be doing some things a little bit differently than how we’ve done in the past to make this as successful as possible,” he said.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.