Mayor-Elect Cantrell welcomes ongoing AG investigation into her use of credit card

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - At a transition team meeting Monday, New Orleans Mayor-Elect Latoya Cantrell told more than 200 handpicked volunteers and paid administrators she is focused on issues facing the city despite the ongoing investigation into her use of a city-issued credit card while serving on the City Council.

"I know that I am under a microscope. I don't know how big that sucker is, but it's big. But that's okay. It's okay," Cantrell told the crowd. "We're not going to let those frame the transition for us because we are going to frame it for ourselves by being focused on what we know the challenges are, and there are real challenges."

As Cantrell turns her attention to becoming mayor, the ongoing investigation moves through the legal system.

Recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court appointed retired Baton Rouge Judge Freddie Pitcher as an "ad hoc" to determine if the Orleans Criminal District Court judges should be recused from further issues concerning the Louisiana Attorney General's investigation .

AG Jeff Landry wants to have all of the Orleans Criminal Court judges recuse themselves. Landry said six judges refused to sign a subpoena to have Cantrell turn over personal financial records already, five of those citing a conflict of interest.

Public records obtained by FOX 8 showed questionable purchases on Cantrell's city-issued credit card including drinks, turkeys, meals and even feminine products.

Cantrell paid back more than $4,000 to the city just days before she qualified to run for mayor.

FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti said the conflict comes from the mayor elect's relationship with Orleans Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell.

"All of the judges have the same professional relationship with Harry Cantrell who is on the bench with them and is the father-in-law of the mayor-elect," Raspanti said. "I would assume if this judge decides to recuse Judge (Laurie) White, he will recuse everybody else on the Criminal District Court bench, and if he decides that (White) can hear the case, she will be the one hearing the case and she will make the decision on whether or not the subpoenas can be served and executed."

Raspanti said if Judge Pitcher recuses the entire court, another ad hoc judge will oversee the AG's investigation.

Cantrell said despite the investigation she is determined to keep her focus on her transition into office.

"Things are moving in the right direction. All I'm for his fairness, impartiality, and I believe the judge that was selected will render just that," she said.

At this time, Cantrell has not been found to have broken or violated any laws.

Cantrell said her plan of action for the transition will be completed by April 14. She is set to take office on May 7.

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