In a move that’s been expected for days, the St. Bernard Parish Council on Friday passed a measure to require embattled Parish President David Peralta to end a controversial contract with a local firm that provides technology services to the parish — the latest round in a long-running dispute that has ratcheted up tension between the council and the first-term parish leader.
The council passed the ordinance 4-0, with three members absent, during a special meeting.
It seeks to make Peralta cancel the parish’s 2014 contract with ParaTech LLC, a technology services firm headquartered in Jefferson Parish.
Peralta contends that the ordinance oversteps the council’s authority and infringes on the executive branch’s prerogatives, and he has promised to veto the measure next week. If he does, the council could override the veto with a vote of at least five of its seven members.
The council called a public hearing on the ordinance during its regular meeting Tuesday, though no one appeared to discuss the measure.
“It’s frustrating dealing with these kinds of things when there’s so many positive things we can be working on in the parish,” Councilman Guy McInnis said Friday.
The ParaTech contract gives the firm authority to “perform all necessary technology professional services” for the parish. But the Parish Council has refused to use the company to handle its email system, saying the firm’s owner, Richard Perniciaro, is too close to Peralta, who has had a frequently icy relationship with the council as his legal issues have mounted over the last two years.
Perniciaro said the deal is worth upward of $70,000 a year.
Last fall, the council told ParaTech that 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.
Peralta said this week that he had reached a settlement with the firm over the lawsuit. He said the firm agreed to drop its lawsuit with no money changing hands and with the understanding that the council can use its own technology firm.
In return, Perniciaro said, the council needs to acknowledge that the contract was an exclusive contract and that the firm is giving the council a break by letting it find someone else to run its email system.
Perhaps adding fuel to the council’s desire to drop the deal, Perniciaro told The New Orleans Advocate this week that he has received a target letter from the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office that indicates that state prosecutors are presenting evidence of alleged wrongdoing by him to a grand jury as part of a probe that is expected to lead to new criminal charges against Peralta.
He said Harold “Bubby” Rosselli, a ParaTech employee assigned to parish government, also received a target letter.
Perniciaro said he believes the allegations against him involve a claim of bid-rigging. He has denied wrongdoing.
The grand jury is slated to meet again Tuesday at 34th Judicial District Court in Chalmette.
Peralta already faces pending criminal charges in two jurisdictions.