Former mayoral administrations say city-owned Pontalba apartment was never lived in
FOX 8 reached out to the administrations of all former living New Orleans mayors to ask about how the city-owned Pontalba apartment was used during their times in office.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Following a Lee Zurik investigation finding New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell spending much of her time at a city-owned apartment, possibly without paying rent, FOX 8 contacted the administrations of all prior New Orleans mayors to discuss how the apartment was used during their terms.
The city-owned Pontalba apartment is managed by the French Market Corporation. It was originally purchased during the Morial administration, with the purpose of the space being to host visiting dignitaries or hold city events.
According to the French Market Corporation, the two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment has a fair market value of $2,991 a month.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell defended her use of the apartment, with a spokesperson writing in part:
“The Mayor’s usage of the city-owned apartment at the Pontalba is consistent with the usage of past mayors.”
The spokesperson went on to suggest Mayor Cantrell is not paying rent, saying, “this mayor and past mayors were under no obligation to pay for usage of that unit.”
FOX 8 made contact with officials from four former mayoral administrations: Mitch Landrieu, Ray Nagin, Sidney Barthelemy, and Marc Morial.
A former high-ranking official with the Landrieu administration said Mayor Landrieu stayed at the Pontalba “less than five times during his eight years in office,” and only after a handful of work events in the French Quarter.
The official went on to add that the administration used the space mainly for work, social gatherings, and for out-of-town dignitaries to stay.
“I never spent a night in the Pontalba. I used it for city occasions, special occasions, things like that,” former mayor Barthelemy told FOX 8.
FOX 8 also spoke with Mayor Ray Nagin’s city attorney, who said she didn’t recall Nagin using the apartment to live out of.
A former department head from Mayor Marc Morial’s administration said the former mayor did not use the apartment to live in.
“When it came, for example, for other things, there’s all these developed policies, you can go on the city’s website and see what all the policies are for employees. But this one, I just didn’t know about,” said New Orleans City Councilman Joe Giarrusso.
“The city has an apartment there. What is the purpose of that apartment? Who gets to stay at that apartment?”
Rafael Goyeneche and the Metropolitan Crime Commission have been conducting their own investigation and sent a letter on Thursday (Sept. 29) to the City Council asking for an independent review.
The group says they too received “credible information and documentation from multiple independent sources” that Mayor Cantrell has been “inhabiting and/or personally utilizing” the Jackson Square apartment.
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