Crime commission leader, political analyst react to Cantrell investigation
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The head of a local crime watchdog and a political analyst reacted to news of a federal investigation involving Mayor Latoya Cantrell.
Rafael Goyeneche leads the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
“I’ve heard that for a while,” said Goyeneche.
He responded to Lee Zurik’s reporting that a source with knowledge of the federal probe told FOX 8 that FBI agents are looking into a series of clothing purchases made in the past five years by New Orleans salon owner Tanya Blunt-Haynes who also works as a personal shopper and stylist for Cantrell.
FOX 8 has also learned two businesses, Ballin’s Ltd. and a kitchen and bath store in Metairie were subpoenaed as part of the investigation. Also, the FBI subpoenaed receipts and documents related to purchases made by Haynes and her husband worth thousands of dollars.
And records show Haynes received $175,000 since 2017 from Cantrell’s campaign account which lists her as the mayor’s image consultant.
Goyeneche provided FOX 8 with a campaign finance expenditures rule which says, “Elected officials and candidates cannot use campaign funds to pay for ordinary clothing expenses.”
Then he expounded on that point.
“If the mayor has used her campaign funds to purchase clothing that’s prohibited under the ethics rules and campaign rules of Louisiana, which means if she did that and converted those campaign funds to purchase clothing that may be taxable income to her, and as such she may have tax consequences, she owes the federal government because she’s converted those for personal purposes,” said Goyeneche.
As per usual, the U.S. Attorney’s Office would not confirm or deny the investigation.
Robert Collins, Ph.D., is a Dillard University political analyst.
“Until we get more information from either the FBI or the U.S. Attorney’s Office we won’t be able to really know the details and so we want to be very careful not to make any accusations but it certainly doesn’t help the image of the mayor at a time when we know that investigations are going on,” said Collins.
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He believes does not believe the news of an investigation is helpful, in terms of the mayor’s image.
“I think it’s going to once again lead to more questions from the taxpayers,” said Collins.
Goyeneche said, “All of this is a continuing pattern where you’ve seen, you know, Mayor Cantrell before she was the mayor as a council member using her city council credit card inappropriately and here we are six, seven years later and some of the same questionable purchases are now under federal investigation.”
However, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry did not file charges against Cantrell over the credit card use and the legislative auditor’s report said her use of the card was not out of line with the practices of her fellow city council members.
The investigation is underway as Cantrell is facing a recall effort.
“All of the negative publicity that the mayor has been generating certainly, you, know helps the recall effort because it just creates more negativity in the minds of the voters,” said Collins. “Now, of course, as we’ve said all along the recall effort was always a long shot, it’s just difficult in Louisiana to recall any public official.”
Still, he thinks such headlines serve to weaken the mayor.
“This is all seen as making the mayor politically weak and when the mayor is politically weak the city council tends not to cooperate with the mayor,” said Collins. “So, I think this could further fray relationships with the city council.”
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