Ex-St. Bernard president David Peralta says no hard feelings after losing lawsuit to Sidney Torres _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta is led away in handcuffs after a 22 count indictment was handed down Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

Say what you want about David Peralta, but he’s not one to hold a grudge, even after losing a $118,000 lawsuit last week to businessman Sidney Torres IV.

“Mr. Torres was successful in his lawsuit. I’m OK with that,” the former St. Bernard Parish president said. “I don’t have hard feelings.”

Torres filed suit against Peralta in Orleans Parish in 2012, claiming Peralta owed his company SDT Productions nearly $118,000 for campaign commercials produced for Peralta’s first run for office five years ago.

“The facts in this case were very clear: Mr. Peralta didn’t pay his bills,” Torres said last week. “Our business, like most any other, regularly operates on trust that people will follow through with their commitments, and Peralta abused that trust.”

The latest legal setback comes as Peralta faces more than two dozen criminal counts in St. Bernard and East Baton Rouge parishes tied to his single troubled term as parish president, including perjury, malfeasance in office, obstruction of justice and others.

On the plus side, prosecutors from the state Attorney General’s Office recently dropped a felony stalking charge against him.

As for the civil verdict, Peralta said, he testified in court that he believed Torres had lent him a hand as a favor to spite Peralta’s opponent in the race, then-Parish President Craig Taffaro, with whom Torres had clashed.

However, after beating Taffaro by a few hundred votes, Peralta received a bill for the work. After consulting with the Ethics Board, he listed the six-figure sum as an outstanding debt on his campaign finance reports.

Four years later, Civil District Court Judge Piper Griffin has ruled that it’s time for Peralta to pay up.

Despite being out of a job since losing his bid for re-election, Peralta said he has no plans to appeal and “will honor and respect the judge’s decision.”

“I’ll have to figure out a way to pay it,” he said. “Obviously, I don’t have $118,000 sitting around. I wish I had.”

Mayor’s Office touts good news, not bad

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office recently sent out a release touting the fact that a financial website study had ranked New Orleans first in the nation for how efficiently the city spends taxpayer dollars on particular key expenditures such as education and law enforcement.

Analysts with the website WalletHub “ranked 78 of the largest cities on various expenditures to identify those that most efficiently spend public resources and how well they manage the challenges that are unique to their communities. New Orleans was ranked first for education return-on-investment and ninth for law enforcement return-on-investment,” the city’s release noted.

Listed among the top 10 with New Orleans were Miami, Philadelphia, Dallas and Phoenix.

WalletHub is a font of releases every week listing U.S. states and cities on dozens of yardsticks.

Among its recent announcements that the Mayor’s Office did not pass along:

The New Orleans region is America’s fifth fattest metropolitan area, ranking dead last in the percentages of overweight children and of adults eating less than one serving of fruits or vegetables per day.

New Orleans ranks in the top 3 percent of cities with the most student debt, calculated on the ratio of student debt to the median income of adults aged 25-44.

New Orleans is the city with the fifth highest “population in need,” ranking 134th in the rate of child poverty, 130th in adult poverty, 126th in the unemployment rate, 117th in the number of homeless people per capita, 149th in “food insecurity” and 102nd in the crime rate.

Overall, Wallethub reported, New Orleans ranked 45th out of 62 U.S. cities in its 2015 ranking of the best and worst large cities to live in.

BGR honors officials, citizens for good work

The Bureau of Governmental Research last week presented its 2016 Excellence in Government Awards during a luncheon ceremony. Established in 1994, the awards program recognizes government employees and citizens for outstanding performance and creative problem-solving.

The 2016 honorees were:

MERIT AWARDS: Jerry Bologna, president & CEO of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission; Frank Borne Jr., chief deputy of the Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court’s Office; and Kelly Rabalais, executive counsel in St. Tammany Parish’s Legal Department.

INNOVATION AWARDS: Lynn Dupont, principal planner & GIS coordinator for the Regional Planning Commission; Dylan Knaggs, a former performance analyst in New Orleans’ Office of Performance and Accountability; Snapper Poche, a senior performance manager in the Office of Performance and Accountability; and Ava Rogers, deputy chief administrative officer for operations for the city.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS: Manuel Aspuria, operations and maintenance manager for the Jefferson Parish Department of Drainage and Pump Stations, and Patrick Gallwey, retired chief operating officer for the Port of New Orleans.

CITIZENSHIP AWARD: Ruthie Frierson, founder and chairwoman emeritus of Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans.

The city said that Rogers, Poche and Knaggs were recognized for their innovation and leadership in developing the city’s code enforcement abatement tool, a way to reduce a backlog of more than 1,500 blighted properties that were awaiting determination of whether they should be auctioned or demolished.

Compiled by Richard Thompson and Bruce Eggler