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‘Spillionaires’ Powerbroker Loses Re-election Bid

Craig Taffaro Jr., president of Louisiana’s St. Bernard parish, who had been accused of favoritism in awarding work after the BP oil spill, loses to a candidate promising reform.

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St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro Jr., right, and actor and environmental activist Kevin Costner arrive to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee Sept. 22, 2010 on Capitol Hill. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

A southeast Louisiana powerbroker at the heart of a ProPublica investigation into "spillionaires," or people profiting from the BP oil spill clean-up, has lost his bid for reelection.

Craig Taffaro Jr., the president of St. Bernard parish, was accused of handing out clean-up jobs based on favoritism and of handing out no-bid contracts to allies after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, 2010, sending 200 million gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Taffaro was defeated in a runoff Saturday by Dave Peralta, 58, a former chief administrative officer in St. Bernard who was fired by Taffaro in 2008. Peralta, a grant administrative officer for the St. Bernard Sheriff's Office, had campaigned mainly as a reformer, accusing Taffaro of over-spending and of his role in creating "spillionaires." It was a close race: Peralta received 6,527 votes, while Taffaro got 5,943.

Taffaro, 46, a therapist and former marathon runner, did not respond to a phone call and an email from ProPublica for this story. He has said that he worked up to 20 hours a day during the clean-up and didn't make a single dollar more than his salary. He also has said the spill jobs were handed out fairly.

After the spill, Taffaro declared a state of emergency, allowing him to award contracts without competitive bidding. He picked the main parish cleanup contractor, choosing a company that had no experience running projects of that scale. Friends and supporters were also given major construction and catering jobs.

Some local fishermen complained that some of the most lucrative cleanup jobs went to political allies of Taffaro, and not to those who were most deserving. Particularly on Delacroix Island, a narrow spit of land about 30 miles southeast of New Orleans, fishermen were upset.

Taffaro's political opponents suggested that those who worked on the spill were later asked for donations, although parish officials denied pressuring anyone for campaign money.

At an election fundraiser on Sept. 29, 2010, Taffaro raised $207,400, the most ever collected by a St. Bernard politician in one night, according to records available online. The fundraiser's host committee members—many of whom got spill-related work—and their family members, business partners and companies donated $47,500 of that. Other companies and people tied to the spill cleanup gave an additional $59,300, reporting by ProPublica showed.

Much of Peralta's support came from precincts in the southeastern part of the parish, where many fishermen live.

"I just think they realized they didn't get a fair shake during the BP crisis," Peralta said Monday. "They were hoping for change and they voted for change."

I bet,Fisherman at North Golf Coast get nothing from BP,just many fishy promisses.

TheTruthAboutCraig

Nov. 22, 2011, 8:54 p.m.

SOUTH OF THE BORDER,
IN O’L MEXICO,
DEEP IN THE JUNGLE,
AND MUY RICO.

THERE IS A NEW GRINGO,
WHO MOVED INTO TOWN,
HE DRIVES A BIG HUMMER,
TO GET HIM AROUND.

HE BOUGHT A BIG CASA,
WITH WALLS AND A GUARD,
A PLACE THAT IS CERTAINLY,
UNLIKE O’L ST. BERNARD

HE WON’T BE A FARMER,
HE WON’T OWN A HORSE,
HE’S ALREADY WEALTHY,
FROM A VERY GOOD SOURCE.

HIS RICHES WERE SENT FROM,
THE HEAVENS ABOVE,
A KINGDOM CALLED BP,
THE ‘SPILLIONAIRES’ CLUB.

IT MIGHT BE A SHOCKER,
IF YOU JUST COULNT’ SEE,
WHAT THE REST OF US KNEW,
WHEN WE SET HIM FREE.

SO BYE, BYE AMIGO,
PLEASE DO NOT COME BACK,
WE HAVE A NEW LEADER,
WHO’LL TURN RED BACK TO BLACK.

ADIOS SENOR PRESIDENTE!

The Fisherman mattered in this election! They made the difference!

I am a resident in St. Bernard and this is how I feel.

That Hopedale compound that Taffaro set up in lower St. Bernard was a disaster and embarrassment to everyone who lives here. I have nothing to do with fishing, but after hearing story after story and watching it all unfold on TV, I was disgusted with the way is was controlled by the administration of this parish.

The entire event made all citizens here look like a bunch of ignorant money grabbing gypsies. Worst of all, some of those who deserved compensation for loss of work were never or barely compensated while others had money simply thrown at them for doing nothing. By the size of that compound, you would have thought we were being invaded by Mexico! There was no organization, no integrity and inequality all the way around. Taffaro’s little city was more of a disaster than the actual oil spill in St. Bernard waters.

I would like to know; Does anyone here agree that’ The Amigos’ should have been raking in millions for leasing their land? If you do, then please tell us why, because I can’t see it being right or fair or the least bit professional. Embarrassing to all of us to say the least!

Ok, BP should be held accountable for damages and actual losses, but they were raped over and over again by the leaders of this parish and I am disgusted to think what else our so-called PROFESSIONAL AND ETHICAL LEADERS have done that we know nothing about. Are we going to be left holding the bag when BP sues us? That could happen so don’t discount the fact that BP could say, ‘hey wait a minute’!

You who have always had your fingers on the pulse of the fishing industry are the people that I trust as having known what should have been done in this rare circumstance. Instead, you were used and played and sacrificed off like pawns in a chess game. It made me ill to see this when it was happening and our leaders taking all the credit for screwing BP like that was some accomplishment to be proud of these days. Taffaro plays himself off as a God fearing man. Really Craig? Is this what God teaches us? To lie or manipulate the truth so you and others can profit? Great, now we have another generation of youth who know how this went down and who think this was the right way to handle this situation? Thanks Craig.

Being proactive is one thing, but abusing one’s power, hand-picking who will make hundreds of thousand or millions from BP and who won’t, is not the person I wanted to lead us for another four years or ever for that matter. I am glad he is out.

I believe every word written by Kim Barker’s Pro Publica article regarding the ‘Spillionaires’. I believe she got to the truth (because it was so in our faces anyway), and spoke for the people who could not speak for themselves. Obviously many of the people here felt the same way and that is why we have elected new leadership who is arriving with integrity and has a solid grip on what is most important.

So again, my gratitude to all of you who didn’t buy into what you were being fed at the time. I do believe that there is going to be a powerful and significant shift in how this parish operates and how other people view our citizens. It is about time we received some respect. The people want a positive change and I believe this will take place immediately.

Shame on Craig Taffaro, The Amigos, and all who participated in the BP sham. Shame on you, shame on you, shame on you. Please pack up your gypsy wagons and head on out of here. We don’t need your kind here anymore.

PS: Any other thieving gypsies left behind had better watch themselves because we know who you are and you are not going to be able to get away with your ‘snake-like’ ways anymore. We have our eyes (about 15,000) on you!

‘power to the people’