Mayor Cantrell talks about financial burden of credit card probe and desire to put it behind her

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - As the investigation into Mayor Latoya Cantrell's use of a city issued credit card continues, the new mayor told FOX 8 News she would rather not be paying lawyers and that she is eager to have the issue put behind her.

Cantrell talked about the matter from behind her desk in her second floor City Hall office.

"I am looking forward to this being behind me, behind the City Council and behind the citizens of New Orleans," she said.

Attorney General Jeff Landry opened a criminal investigation after questionable credit card purchases by Cantrell while she was still on the City Council came to light during the runoff campaign last fall.

Cantrell did not respond directly to a question about whether she is concerned that the attorney general may prosecute her. But she was emphatic that her spending on the city credit card was legitimate.

Some of the purchases were for meals, beverages and even feminine products.

City Hall records obtained by FOX 8 News show days around Cantrell qualifying for the mayor's race, she reimbursed city government $4,400 for personal purchases.

"I have not done anything wrong. That has been determined by the staff of the AG, and the inspector general's report will be coming out as well which has indicated there's been no wrongdoing - not just by me, but any of my colleagues on the New Orleans City Council. They will recommend policy changes," said Cantrell during the one-on-one interview.

The attorney general's office has not confirmed Cantrell's take on any finding of his probe. In fact, four days before she took the oath of office earlier this month, Landry issued a statement saying his investigation was ongoing and that it was more widespread than just Cantrell. He also wrote that the legislative auditor is involved in examining city spending practices.

Landry's spokeswoman refused comment Wednesday evening on Cantrell's recent statement about the investigation.

"I would say absolutely it is a financial burden to be fighting, being accused of something that you know you did not do, as someone who - I do not have deep pockets," Cantrell said in a response to a question from FOX 8.

She was also asked if the probe is impeding her as mayor in any way.

"Absolutely not because as I've stood by and I've said and I've demonstrated my level of transparency, building in accountability and wanting to continue to do the work on behalf of citizens. So it hasn't stopped me, and I have to remained focused," she said.

Still, at another point, she conceded the scandal has had some effect.

"I know that it has had an impact, but what I will say is that in spite of it I was able to attract great talent to join the city of New Orleans, and that really means the most. And so while that may have hampered others or prevented them from wanting to put their hat in the ring, it really did yield great folks to lead this city forward with me, so I'm excited about that," said Cantrell.

Cantrell was elected in a landslide last November even after the credit card purchases were brought to light.

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