St. Bernard Parish officials on Tuesday set the stage for a clash between the Parish Council and President David Peralta over the firm that provides technology services to the parish.
A council vote is expected before the end of the week on an ordinance that would require Peralta to end the firm’s contract. If it passes, as seems likely, the first-term parish leader promises to veto it.
The council called a public hearing on the measure during its regular meeting Tuesday. However, no one showed up to discuss the ordinance, which would require Peralta to end the parish’s contract with ParaTech LLC, a technology services firm headquartered in Jefferson Parish. The deal has been in effect since early 2014.
The council is expected to vote on the ordinance during a special meeting Friday. In an interview after Tuesday’s meeting, Peralta said he will veto the measure if it passes. The council could override the veto with a vote of at least five of its seven members.
ParaTech’s relationship with the parish spilled over into the courtroom last year.
The 2014 contract said the company was to “perform all necessary technology professional services.” But the Parish Council refused to use the company to handle its email system.
Last fall, the council told ParaTech it intended to hire another company to set up its own email system. ParaTech countered with a lawsuit saying the council’s action breached its contract.
ParaTech’s lawsuit quoted Council Chairman Guy McInnis as describing ParaTech owner Richard Perniciaro as “Dave’s guy” and saying the firm “could not be trusted to keep the council’s technology information private and away from the office of the parish president.”
Peralta said Tuesday he reached a settlement with ParaTech this week over the lawsuit, a resolution that stipulates the firm will drop its lawsuit with no money changing hands and with the understanding that the council can use its own technology firm.
As a result, Peralta said, the firm will not service the council’s computers or servers.
“We’re not going to be involved in it,” he said. “They want that separation, and I think they’re entitled to that separation.”
As for the ordinance, Peralta insisted that the council would be overstepping its bounds by directing him to terminate the ParaTech contract.
After prosecutors with the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office indicated in court earlier this year that Peralta — who faces criminal charges in two jurisdictions — may not be the only person targeted by a grand jury that has met repeatedly in St. Bernard in recent months, observers have speculated that the probe may involve Perniciaro or other ParaTech employees.
Several ParaTech employees have been seen entering or leaving the grand jury room at 34th Judicial District Court in Chalmette.
Earlier this year, the parish hired two technology consultants, including ParaTech, to audit the job performance of Jeffrey Brannon, St. Bernard’s technology director, who is widely expected to testify against Peralta at a criminal trial.
ParaTech offered a scathing review of Brannon’s work and alleged that he copied Peralta’s emails, presumably for state investigators. However, some parish observers dismissed its findings as an attempt by Peralta to raise questions about Brannon’s credibility before the trial.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.