New Orleans mayor’s salary could be docked over first-class flight upgrades

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 10:01 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The New Orleans City Council will consider docking Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s salary in 2023 if she does not pay back tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent upgrading overseas flights.

Mayor Cantrell has faced national scrutiny since she told Fox 8′s Andres Fuentes on Sept. 8 she did not plan to pay back nearly $30,000 spent on first-class flight upgrades on trips to France and Switzerland.

“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. “One thing is clear; I do my job and I will continue to do it with distinction and integrity every step of the way.”

A city policy states traveling government employees are required to seek the lowest fares available. It also says employees who choose an upgrade from coach, economy, or business class flights are solely responsible for the difference in cost.

Council President Helena Moreno says the city charter gives them the power to reduce the mayor’s salary if she does not pay for the upgrades. Moreno says Cantrell fulfilled other facets of the city travel policy, including providing documents in a timely manner, and she is hopeful the mayor will pay the money back.

“I hope we don’t have to take it that far,” Moreno says. “[I hope] she will see these opinions coming out and do the right thing, but we will be forced to take the necessary steps if she doesn’t.”

Mayor 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.

The council will begin budget talks in November.

The Mayor’s office sent a statement saying:

“While the City Council leadership is focused on decreasing the Mayor’s salary, we are laser-focused on increasing salaries for over 4,000 hard-working and dedicated City employees. We are grateful for the Council’s appropriation of a five percent cost of living adjustment payment that our people have earned and can expect to receive within weeks. We look forward to working with the City Council in the spirit of collaboration to receive approval to also provide employees with a 10 percent raise over the course of the next three years. New Orleans has been faced with and has overcome several unprecedented challenges as a city, and this administration is committed to prioritizing and demonstrating our appreciation for every single public servant who continues to put the needs of the residents before themselves every single day.”

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