It may not go down as another Watergate break-in, but embattled St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta reported Monday that his Chalmette office had been burglarized, telling authorities that a set of documents had allegedly gone missing days earlier.
According to an investigative report released Tuesday by the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office, Peralta told a sheriff’s deputy that an 18-page report and two discs containing the same report were removed from his desk Thursday night or Friday morning.
Peralta said his office door was closed but he was unsure whether it was locked, and there were no obvious signs of forced entry, according to the report.
The first-term parish leader told Deputy Lance Kramer that his staff had reviewed the building’s access card system but found nothing unusual. There were no security cameras in that area of the building.
Peralta reported the episode based on his lawyer’s advice, he told Kramer.
A copy of the report was forwarded to sheriff’s detectives to investigate; a Sheriff’s Office spokesman declined comment Tuesday. It’s unclear if criminal charges will follow.
The report that allegedly disappeared included the findings of a Mandeville technology consulting firm hired by the parish to evaluate its information technology department.
As a state grand jury considers possible new criminal charges against Peralta, who was indicted twice last year on criminal charges, it’s widely believed by local officials and other observers that a key government witness in the widening criminal probe is St. Bernard’s director of information technology, Jeffrey Brannon.
In the time since Brannon’s likely involvement in the probe emerged, his job performance has come under new scrutiny by parish administrators.
The missing report, done last week by Network Logic LLC, found that some of the parish’s computer software needed to be updated. It said much of the computer cabling was in disarray, and it chided Brannon for not installing software filters to prevent parish workers from using work computers to visit illegal or unauthorized websites.
Peralta, a former New Orleans police sergeant and a major with the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office, has faced mounting legal issues stemming from an October 2013 incident in which his then-wife, Sharon Schaefer, has accused him of handcuffing, beating and raping her in their Meraux home. He maintains that the couple engaged in “rough sex” that day at her request; Schaefer has denied that, saying the couple weren’t even on speaking terms at the time. They have since divorced.
Peralta was indicted in April by a grand jury in St. Bernard on one count of sexual battery in connection with the allegations by Schaefer. He pleaded not guilty and was released on a $20,000 bond. The case is expected to be tried in April.
In September, a grand jury in St. Tammany Parish charged him with one count of felony stalking for allegedly harassing Schaefer. He pleaded not guilty and posted a $35,000 bond. That case is set for trial in May.
The grand jury seated in St. Bernard last month is considering possible additional charges, including witness intimidation, obstruction of justice and malfeasance in office, a source familiar with the matter told The New Orleans Advocate.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.