Mayor Cantrell says she won’t repay $30,000 in travel expenses

Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 6:00 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell says she does not plan to pay the city back for first-class travel upgrades on overseas flights, despite policies put in place by the city council.

The policy states all traveling city employees are required to seek the lowest fares available or reimburse the city for deluxe accommodations.

The Chief Administrative Officer says the law department is still reviewing whether or not the mayor needs to reimburse nearly $30,000 in taxpayer money.

At a press conference Thursday (Sept. 8), Mayor Cantrell says the trips and expenses were made in order to better New Orleans.

“All expenses incurred doing business on behalf of the city of New Orleans will not be reimbursed to the city of New Orleans,” Mayor Cantrell said outside of the Nix Library. “One thing is clear; I do my job and I will continue to do it with distinction and integrity every step of the way.”

Dillard University public policy professor Robert Collins says it appears the mayor is being defiant.

The mayor’s staff says they are working to determine if the policy applies to the mayor, as she is an elected official and not a hired city employee.

“I think that’s still under review with law kind of determining the variations between the CAO policy, the elected official policy, and the different variations,” CAO Gilbert Montaño said. “There’s no ultimate conclusion at this current moment. Right now it’s in law, and we are evaluating it and I think there would be a determination sooner rather than later.”

The mayor’s first-class tickets to France and Switzerland cost the city nearly $30,000. Cantrell has previously said that her travel upgrades were not for luxury purposes but for matters of safety.

“Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world Black women walk in,” Mayor Cantrell said in a statement.

However, Collins says that since the mayor gets a salary and benefits from New Orleans, she should qualify as an employee.

“It’s sort of like saying the President of the United States is not an employee of the federal government. He draws a salary, of course he is,” Collins said. “It’s like saying the governor of Louisiana is not an employee of state government. Of course he is. He is the CEO of the state government. So to pretend there is some sort of legal difference between an elected official who draws a salary from a government agency and an employee of that government agency, I think it’s problematic.”

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