NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - New details emerge about political contributions in the wake of the Hard Rock collapse. For the last several weeks, FOX 8 has been looking into contributions made to a political action committee affiliated with Mayor Latoya Cantrell. That investigation has uncovered thousands of dollars in contributions going to that PAC since the hard rock collapse.
One month after the Hard Rock collapse businesses tied to one of the hotel’s developers made two large campaign contributions Cantrell’s political action committee.
That same developer also provided food and a facility.
“This is one thing that looks bad. Not illegal or unethical, just basically makes everyone look bad,” said Political analyst Ed Chervenak.
Todd Trosclair is a New Orleans area businessman.
On Nov. 12, 2019, a company Trosclair is a partner in, Malone Electrical Service, donated $2,500 to Action New Orleans, Cantrell’s PAC.
That same day, another company with ties to Trosclair, Malone All Star JV, donated an additional $7500.
That same day, Trosclair himself provided event space and catering for a Cantrell PAC event at a cost of $669.
“There is no mystery who he is, he is connected to the Hard Rock,” said Chervenak.
Some New Orleanians have criticized the administration’s response to the collapse asking why the mayor is still cooperating with the developers.
“We want to see the language change with the city and how they are addressing the contractors, and building owners. It’s been too friendly. We’re working with and cooperating...it’s been too friendly,” said protest organizer Trey Monaghan, last week.
“This just provides more ammunition to her critics that she is siding with developers and not workers or their families who are still stuck in that building,” said Chervenak.
Trosclair is named in several lawsuits tied to the collapse. Political analyst Ed Chervenak says the city could eventually file suit against the developers or lawsuits could be filed against the city and the developers. That’s another reason Chervenak says the timing is not ideal.
“That’s not going to look good,” said Shervenak.
Cantrell said in a statement,
“To be clear: any campaign contributions made --- by anyone connected to the developer or to their related companies --- have had no bearing whatsoever on any decisions made by this administration concerning the Hard Rock project or the collapse.”
In an interview, she said, “It’s not about thinking that there is anything improper, there’s nothing improper. I, in terms of contributions whether to the PAC or whether to my campaign, are from all sectors.”
The PAC was formed in 2018 to help the Cantrell administration. The PAC chairperson is Maggie Carroll who has also been a paid campaign consultant for Cantrell.
“You would think people accepting money from contributors are looking out for mayor so something like this doesn’t happen. Someone in a controversy donating to your PAC does not look good. Gatekeepers probably did not do as a good job as they should have,” said Chervenak.
After the developer’s attorney said this week the owners were not at fault for the collapse, Cantrell did fire back.
"There's no way that I see the ownership being able to distance themselves from their property, from their project and the liability associated with it, that's just the facts," said Cantrell.
But Cantrell has resisted public hearings on the collapse and in the end, her handling of the collapse and timing of these contributions will be answered by voters.
“In the end, she will have to answer questions raise to constituents is under pressure from public and city council as well,” said Chervenak.
Cantrell’s Pac issued this statement:“Contributions to Mayor Cantrell’s campaign and Action New Orleans span every major American industry, including real estate and construction, and she has been deeply involved in the response to this crisis, working with the victims’ families and other stakeholders to find consensus on a plan for implosion, and to recover remains," that from Kristine Breithaupt, the Communications Director, for Action New Orleans.
We reached out to Todd Trosclair and an attorney for 1031 Canal, the developers of the Hard Rock Hotel, for comment on this story and have not heard back.