Investigation launched into Mayor Cantrell non-profit; funds frozen
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The New Orleans Office of Inspector General has launched an investigation into one of Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s non-profit organizations, multiple sources confirm to Fox 8.
The “Forward Together New Orleans” (FTNO) non-profit was using money from the multi-million dollar Wisner Family Land Trust. The New Orleans City Council is now calling for more transparency regarding how millions of dollars are being spent.
FTNO received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Wisner Trust, a century-old fund that pays the City of New Orleans millions of dollars each year. The organization doled out millions to agencies that did everything from trying to stop gun violence to assisting those who couldn’t pay rent.
The OIG’s office has requested documents from FTNO to determine how the money is being spent.
The New Orleans City Council is headed to court to freeze all further spending from the trust fund.
“We don’t know where the money has been going because it’s been handled by a private board since 2020,” said Councilman Joe Giarusso.
“I think their belief is that the money is being diverted to private sources that have a connection to the mayor and they just can’t see it,” said Dr. Robert Collins, with Dillard University’s School of Public Policy.
While the investigation continues, no payments are being made to any FTNO members.
“During 2020 the organization was active in providing services to the community and residents who were impacted by COVID in terms of financial services that people could not meet individually due to the pandemic,” said former board member Silas Lee. “That was a critical time not only in New Orleans but nationwide, many community groups stepped up to fill a void in terms of services to meet the quality of life needs of citizens.”
Lee says his term as board member ran out earlier this year unrelated to the OIG’s investigation.
“The lack of transparency definitely creates suspicion because we’ve seen so much other lack of transparency with this administration,” said Collins.
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Giarusso believes 40,000 acres of south Louisiana land which were part of the land trust now belong to the city and he says there may be other uses for that property that could bring in even more money.
“The estimated revenue is somewhere between $7 to $13 million a year and that’s on the revenue side... and we’re now only getting a portion of that, around 40%. So we’re missing out on tens of millions of dollars over a couple of years,” said Giarusso.
Fox 8 reached out to the mayor’s office and FTNO’s attorney, but have not heard back.
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