Controversial New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, a Democrat, admitted to living in an apartment in the city’s French Quarter rent free.
Cantrell, who previously caused outrage when she spent city funds on first class air travel and excused it by saying economy class was ‘unsafe’ for black women, claims to have done nothing illegal.
The apartment is located in the city’s Upper Pontalba building on Jackson Square in the famous district. It is owned by the city and managed by the French Market Corp., a city-affiliated agency, has a market rate of $2,991 per month
A spokesperson for Cantrell and the city councilmember who sits on the FMC board have said that everything is legal according to the city’s terms with French Market Corp.
However, the city’s Metropolitan Crime Commission sent a report to the city council Thursday asking for an investigation into Cantrell’s use of the apartment.
The MCC report included images of Cantrell going in and out of the apartment over several months as well as allegations from witnesses saying she has been staying overnight regularly at the apartment.
The city’s Metropolitan Crime Commission showed photographs of New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell entering and leaving the apartment and presented witness testimony that she’s been spending nights there, putting up privacy screens and receiving packages
Cantrell admitted to living in an apartment in the city’s French Quarter rent free but says she’s done nothing wrong
The apartment is located in the city’s Upper Pontalba building on Jackson Square in the famous district and has a market rate of $2,991 per month
City Council President Helena Moreno is asking for time to review the findings before agreeing to an investigation.
A spokesperson for Eugene Green, a Democrat who sits on the board of French Market Corp., said ‘Councilmember Green is not aware of any regulations or procedures that may have been violated.’
FMC records obtained by WWL-TV said that no rent was paid on the apartment between September 1, 2021 and July 31, 2022.
It’s also been alleged that a city employee has been used as a de facto building super to fix problems in the apartment.
A spokesperson for Eugene Green, who sits on the board of French Market Corp., said ‘Councilmember Green is not aware of any regulations or procedures that may have been violated.’ Mayor Cantrell is pictured here (right) raising her glass a parade during Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras celebrations in March 2022
The report shows Cantrell speaking with Byron Cornelison of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy about a leak in the bathroom and telling him when a good time to fix it would be.
She previously wrote to him about getting Cox Cable employees to come fix the WiFi in the apartment.
Rafael Goyeneche, the president of the MCC, calls this arrangement improper for the mayor, saying ‘That’s an additional benefit tax-free that she’s been receiving. She doesn’t need to be residing there or using that. And I think that it’s a misuse and abuse of her authority. But I’m waiting to see what the city council’s position is.’
Goyeneche is demanding the council investigate.
‘The mayor’s usage of the city-owned apartment at the Pontalba is consistent with the usage of previous mayors,’ Cantrell’s communications director, Gregory Joseph, responded. ‘In the 2013 franchise agreement there are no rules governing how that unit should be used and the FMC believes the mayor has no obligation to pay rent on that apartment because she’s using it in the same manner that previous mayors have enjoyed.’
The mayor has been in the news a fair amount recently, having declared economy class passenger flights unsafe for black women, while insisting she won’t repay $30,000 of taxpayers’ money blown on first-class flights to France and Switzerland.
‘My travel accommodations are a matter of safety, not of luxury,’ Cantrell said Thursday at a press conference.
‘As all women know, our health and safety are often disregarded and we are left to navigate alone.
‘As the mother of a young child whom I live for, I am going to protect myself by any reasonable means in order to ensure I am there to see her grow into the strong woman I am raising her to be.
‘Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world black women walk in.’
She has repeatedly refused to repay the cost of a luxury American Airlines flight from Washington Dulles Airport to Switzerland for herself in July, despite a city ban on luxury air travel.
Cantrell spent around $10,000 on her own flat bed seat and blew a similar amount on a first-class return to France earlier this year – while her aides traveled in coach.
Cantrell has defended her purchase of the luxury tickets as her both ‘doing business’ on behalf of the city and because she believes it wouldn’t be safe for her to travel in economy class.
The Mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, is refusing to repay money spent on international business and first class flights to France and Switzerland
While the mayor sat in first-class, her team, including her security detail, were seated in coach.
The Chief Administrative Officer has revealed how the law department is still examining whether Cantrell must reimburse almost $30,000 in taxpayer money for first-class tickets to France and Switzerland.
The mayor had an extremely prickly response when asked by journalists on Thursday as to whether she was considering forking out to replenish city coffers.
‘All expenses incurred doing business on behalf of the city of New Orleans will not be reimbursed to the city of New Orleans,’ Mayor Cantrell said speaking outside the Nix Library.
‘One thing is clear; I do my job and I will continue to do it with distinction and integrity every step of the way. And so, that’s what I have to say on that!’
The mayor insists that the trips and luxury travel expenses were necessary in order to better New Orleans itself.
But the city’s travel policy leaves little room for maneuver: ‘Employees are required to purchase the lowest airfare available…Employees who choose an upgrade from coach, economy, or business class flights are solely responsible for the difference in cost.’
The policy also states: ‘Any reconciliation of travel expenses that results in overpayment by the City requires that the employee reimburse the City within twenty business days.’