Councilmembers plan to introduce ordinance limiting officials’ travel expenses
“I think, there is a legitimate public policy concern that the Mayor is taking extra trips at taxpayer expense and perhaps it’s not always an efficient use of taxpayer money,” said Robert Collins, political analyst for Dillard University.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Two members of the New Orleans City Council plan to propose an ordinance limiting how much elected officials can spend on non-essential travel trips.
The ordinance, by Council President Helena Moreno and Councilman J.P. Morrell, limits both Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the City Council from spending more than $1,000 in City funds on what it calls “non-essential” trips, like carnivals, festivals, receptions, concerts, graduations, and sister city agreements.
Mayor Cantrell has been facing the heat for two back-to-back European trips to sign sister city agreements, one in Switzerland and one in France.
“There’s always the right time to conduct the city’s business, and especially expand our cultural footprint that drives the local economy,” Mayor Cantrell said on Friday, defending the trips. “Any opportunity that we have to link and grow economically, then that’s exactly what we will do.”
Documents from the office of Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montano show the Mayor’s Office has spent roughly $80,000 since January on trips, not including the two European trips.
“There is a legitimate public policy concern that the Mayor is taking extra trips at taxpayer expense and perhaps it’s not always an efficient use of taxpayer money,” said Robert Collins, political analyst for Dillard University. “Keep in mind when the Mayor travels, she doesn’t just travel by herself. She travels with an entire entourage of staff people.”
Collins said politicians have the option of pulling from their campaign coffers for trips. But he speculated Cantrell may not want to use campaign dollars because she may be saving to start a political action committee when her term is up.
“Any public official, if they want to take a trip, they can use money from their campaign fund to take that trip, and the Mayor has a lot of money left over,” he said.
But the ordinance will face an uphill battle in council, with some councilmembers already expressing doubt.
“Those issues include the distinction between elected & non-elected officials, the calculation used to arrive at the $1,000 amount allowable, the distinction between nonessential and essential travel, and the fact that such a matter should be brought before a committee to allow for maximum public discourse,” said Councilman Eugene Green.
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