Reporters barred from Mayor’s press event to prevent questioning of trip overseas

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – So far this year, Mayor Cantrell and her top aids spend over $80,000 in taxpayer money to fund business trips in the US and abroad. Meanwhile, some feel the amount of travel is a concern, distracting the major from the bigger issues here at home.

On Thursday, July 28, the mayor’s office invited news media to witness Mayor Cantrell sign a facial recognition ordinance. But instead, the major’s office banned reporters from going in the room; only allows photographers inside.

This action prevented reporters from asking the major questions ranging on crime, infrastructure needs and ongoing concerns about her frequent travel on the taxpayer’s dime.

A reporter asked if the Mayor would answer questions after the event, to which a communications aide responded, “I said no comments.”

Another reporter asked, “How are we going to get sound on this story then?”

Two and a half hours before the event, FOX 8 called Cantrell’s communications director Gregory Joseph in advance to set up interviews. But Greggory said they wouldn’t allow off-topic questions and if questions were shouted at the event ‘there will be problems.’

Again, the mayor’s office banned reporters from the press event.

“The mayor thinks of the City of New Orleans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week it doesn’t matter where she is,” said Joseph.

Public records show the mayor and her team spent more than $38,000 in travel expenses in 2021.

As of July 2022, that number nearly doubled to more than $82,000 of taxpayer money. That total does not include costs from her most recent trips to Switzerland and France for sister-city agreements.

“This is an accountability issue,” said Tulane Emeritus Professor Joel Friedman. “She has the podium to explain to the population about why she is going on these trips. She may have a very good explanation. She has a public appearance and she doesn’t let the press in and answer questions. What does that suggest to you? What is the inference from that?”

“Inference is I have nothing positive to say, you’re embarrassed you can’t explain it, or you believe it’s not the public’s business. And all of these are bad answers.”

Friedman said her frequency of travel raises a judgment question– not a legal one.

“It’s not the public’s business to know why you’re going on this trip? Of course it is. It’s almost Nixon-like, hiding out, not making yourself available. I would not have thought she would do such a thing. She’s getting very bad advice,” he said.

This is as the major prepares for a trip to Singapore to participate in climate change discussions. Her communications team touts she will be the only sitting US major on the panel.

Council members Eugene Green and Oliver Thomas are preparing to travel to Africa for business dealing with affordable housing.

While council member Green did not comment on the upcoming trip, council member Thomas said he is removing himself from the politics of business travel by taking a leave of absence and paying for the trip himself.

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