NEW ORLEANS—The case of Sidney Torres IV versus ex St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta finally came to an end in late May, nearly four years after it was filed and nearly five years after the television commercials in question aired.
Torres, a developer and investor, fronted Peralta the money for one of Torres’s companies, SDT Productions to make three commercials during his 2011 campaign for parish president and to have them aired on several television stations.
Peralta testified during the suit that he thought the work was done as a favor.
“It seems like it was a misunderstanding or a miscommunication between the two parties,”
Silas Lee, a political analyst and public policy professor at Xavier University
, told the Louisiana Record. “Dave Peralta interpreted it as a favor, while Sidney Torres thought he was being hired.”
Torres filed suit nearly a year after the election, after several attempts to collect the $118,000 he said Peralta owed him. Lee said that most transactions like the one involved in this case would have a contract of some kind to lay out the terms.
“That's not something you'd do verbally,” he said. “That's the strange thing about it. I would think you would have an attorney draw up an agreement.”
The commercials were part of Peralta’s campaign to unseat then-incumbent Parish President Craig Taffaro. One 30-second commercial featured an image of Taffaro riding a pig and criticized him for spending money on parades, sports tickets and meals. The narrator intones “That’s a lot of feed on other people’s dimes,” as piles of neatly banded money fall from the sky.
The lawsuit enumerated production costs and the cost of airtime for the commercials.
Lee said it is unclear why Peralta thought the work had been done as a favor.
“I could see where Sidney would sue and say ‘I incurred production costs—therefore you owe me X amount of dollars,’” he said. “I don't know of any situation where a commercial is done for free.”
Peralta won his election against Taffaro by a few hundred votes. In October he placed fifth in a seven-way primary, and failed to make the runoff election. Guy McInnis won the November runoff and replaced Peralta as Parish President.
The last two years of Peralta’s term in office were marred by numerous indictments in multiple parishes, on charges ranging from stalking and perjury to abuse of power, malfeasance in office and extortion. Some charges were later dismissed, while others are due to be dismissed after Peralta pays an undetermined amount to the state’s Board of Ethics.
Earlier this month, just weeks after losing the civil suit that Torres brought against him, Peralta pleaded no contest to malfeasance, abuse of office and stalking. That plea agreement, arranged with the Attorney General’s office, brought an end to the remaining charges. A judge sentenced him to two months of house arrest and two years of probation.
“It's a very strange situation,” Lee said. “The last few years of his tenure resemble a soap opera.”