Cantrell responds to AG's statement about his probe of her; talks city finances

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Less than a week before Latoya Cantrell takes the oath to become the city's first female mayor, Attorney General Jeff Landry is commenting on his probe of Cantrell's use of a City Council credit card.

Landry issued the following statement:

"While we normally do not comment on investigations, we feel the need to do so in this matter since there has been too much misinformation being spread to the public. Our investigation in New Orleans is still ongoing and it is more widespread than just the Mayor-Elect. The Legislative Auditor is also involved to examine the City's spending practices. We look forward to his audit's conclusion and will not make a prosecutorial decision until at least such time."

Landry's comment came out moments after Cantrell unveiled her transition team's book of recommendations. Beau Tidwell, incoming communications director for Cantrell's administration, responded swiftly:

"Today's statement from AG Landry is completely at odds with representations made by the Attorney General's staff to our legal counsel as recently as this morning. Contrary to what Landry's statement insinuates, the findings of his staff completely exonerate Mayor-elect Cantrell. They found no evidence of wrongdoing, and in fact: they believed they were provided inaccurate information by politically motivated individuals in the first place.The decision by the AG today to do a complete about-face and disregard the findings of his staff is a grave disappointment. We will not be distracted by stunts like this, and the Cantrell administration remains focused on the serious work of delivering results for the people of New Orleans."

"I think the timing today served two purposes," said Dillard University Urban Politics Professor Robert Collins, Ph.D.

Collins points to Landry's political aspirations.

"He knew that releasing the press release right after her press conference would have the biggest effect in terms of just generating the most press coverage. Number two, we know that the attorney general is investigating a run for governor," said Collins.

And during her press conference on her transition team's recommendations, Cantrell suggested that she is not getting the full story from the current administration on the city's financial picture.

"I believe that there are some issues as it relates to the financial viability of the city that are being overlooked, and it's something that we have to make a priority once we get into office. For example, I'm hearing about a possible deficit within the jail, I'm hearing, in terms of Criminal Court, these are things that are not budgeted for, but I am bracing myself. I do believe that there will be some needs that I have not been adequately informed about," Cantrell said.

The mayor's office takes issue with that.

Mayor Landrieu's Director of Communication Tyronne Walker issued the following response to Cantrell's claims:

“When we entered office in May 2010, there was very little transition information available about the state of the City from the outgoing administration. With eyes wide open, we faced a nearly $100 million mid-year budget hole. To close the gap, we cut smart, reorganized City services and eliminated wasteful spending by reducing take-home cars, reigning in overtime and unnecessary credit card spending.

"Consistent with our commitment to transparency and accountability, Mayor Landrieu assembled a Transition Working Group of senior administration officials and financial consultants in mid-2017 to support the Mayor-Elect during the six month transition period to ensure a seamless transition that began in late November.

"In December 2017, the Landrieu Administration delivered 52 transition reports detailing the state of City departments including finances, operations, contracts, personnel and future considerations. In addition, the Landrieu Administration facilitated meetings with City department heads, Mayor’s Office staff and any other staff as requested by the transition. The same courtesy was provided to incoming City Council Members.

"We took the additional step of creating a 139-page report detailing the City’s current 2018 cash position, budget position and structural financial position. This real-time report was delivered along with a detailed two-hour briefing to the incoming CAO last Thursday, April 26.

"As Mayor Landrieu has continuously cautioned for the past eight years, there are always competing priorities but now the choices are between good and better and not bad and worse as we inherited. That is why we fought hard on pension and jail reforms, and in partnership with the City Council, we have resolved many of the City’s long-term liabilities and historical unpaid judgments. 

"We are confident we have provided the Mayor-Elect the resources and information available to hit the ground running on day one."

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