[StBernard] St. Bernard Parish undergoes sweeping political change

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Sun Nov 20 11:52:37 EST 2011

St. Bernard Parish undergoes sweeping political change

Published: Saturday, November 19, 2011, 10:05 PM Updated: Saturday,
November 19, 2011, 10:16 PM

By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, The Times-Picayune

Political change swept St. Bernard Parish on Saturday with incumbents Craig
Taffaro and Lena Torres losing in heated parish president and clerk of court
runoffs and Chief Deputy Jimmy Pohlmann garnering the top cop spot.
Saturday's runoff results capped three brutal campaigns that saw the
candidates spare no punches and that left voters having to sort through a
dizzying array of accusations and counter-accusations.

Both Taffaro and sheriff's candidate Wayne Landry conceded about 9 p.m.

David Peralta, a grant administrator for the St. Bernard Sheriff's Office,
will take over for Taffaro as parish president in January, Randy Nunez
ousted 90-year-old Torres, and Pohlmann bested Councilman Landry in the
contest to replace longtime Sheriff Jack Stephens.

The runoff battle between Peralta and Taffaro was a bloodbath, as the
candidates traded charges and accusations.

During his victory speech, Peralta had tears in his eyes. He spoke of the
jabs leveled against him by Taffaro's camp during the campaign and thanked
voters for supporting change.

A Republican from Meraux, Peralta was former Parish President Henry "Junior"
Rodriguez's chief administrative officer from 2006 through 2008. He retained
that spot when Taffaro took over in 2008, but Taffaro fired him in September
2008. Before that, Peralta was a sergeant in the New Orleans Police
Department and a major in the St. Bernard Sheriff's Office, where at one
point he ran both the parish jail and juvenile detention center.

Peralta pushed for a parish inspector general, a parish ethics board and
said he would create easier access to both himself and parish government

Taffaro, who previously had a private psychotherapist practice before
winning the president's office in a heated 2007 contest, asked voters for
the chance to wrap up the recovery efforts he started in his first term, and
pledged to continue to strengthen regional, state and federal partnerships.

Pohlmann, who runs the day-to-day operations of the Sheriff's Office and has
worked there 28 years, promised to shake things up and show the parish that
he is not Stephen's puppet, something Landry alleged throughout the
campaign. Pohlmann has promised to scrub the Sheriff's Office's budget,
realign its command structure and create uniform hiring and promotion

Landry, a businessman and nursing home owner, had taken Pohlmann to task for
having too cozy a relationship with Stephens, painting Pohlmann as part of a
self-serving status quo.

While Landry's camp this week contested 598 early voting ballots, saying the
ballots were cast by people who lived outside the parish, the parish board
of election supervisors and Assistant Attorney General Bill Bryan, who
specializes in election matters, determined Saturday afternoon that none off
those votes would be removed from the rolls.

When asked on Saturday night whether he'd be speaking to Landry later that
evening, Pohlmann simply smiled and said "next question," seemingly happy to
be rid of Landry altogether.

In his bid to replace Torres, the six-term parish clerk, Nunez, 46, said he
would revamp the office's website to make all files easily accessible,
institute a debit card payment system and create an e-filing system so
documents can be submitted online. He also has said he would implement a
system so residents who have valid conflicts can electronically change their
jury date.

His win signals the end of a Torres dynasty. Lena Torres took over the
office in 1988 after the death of her husband, Sidney Torres Jr., who had
held the post since 1956. Lena Torres started working in the clerk's office
in 1940, when she was 19 years old and one of only two staff members.

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