ZURIK: Mayor Cantrell calls focusing on security officers’ timesheets ‘unfair’
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Our Outside the Office investigations have shown New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell often has multiple officers protecting her while she is spending hours at the city’s Upper Pontalba Apartment, walking alone in the French Quarter, or even traveling out of town.
Our stories also show that at times, the mayor has had as many or more officers protecting her than are on the streets in some police districts.
On Sat., Oct. 1, Mayor Cantrell’s calendar had only one public event - a citizens police academy graduation at noon. That day, three of her security officers clocked 12 hours of work.
Jeffrey Vappie went on the clock first at 5 a.m. It is unclear why taxpayers needed to pay him before the sun came up. On his timesheet, Vappie claims he worked a 15-hour day, clocking out at 8 p.m.
Robert Monlyn clocked in from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. Louis Martinez clocked in from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.
In total, the mayor’s executive protection logged 43 hours of security detail for a Saturday in the fall with one scheduled public appearance.
Our Outside the Office investigations have shown the mayor often has multiple officers protecting her while she is spending hours at the city’s Upper Pontalba Apartment, walking alone in the French Quarter, or even traveling out of town.
When asked whether this is the right use of resources, the mayor did not want to respond.
“So first of all,” Mayor Cantrell began when asked at a press conference on Wed., Feb. 8. “My executive protection team... I will not and I do not feel the need to, as it relates to my well-being, my safety across the board, however that is, and however that needs to show up for my protection (sic). And so with that, ‘EP,’ they’re working. Whether they’re with me or not. They’re doing the job for me and for the people of the City of New Orleans. And that is one aligned with the executive protection guidelines and how they serve me in this capacity.”
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On Sun., July 17, Mayor Cantrell was out of town, traveling back from France. Still, three officers were assigned to protect her.; Monlyn, who traveled with the mayor, as well as Martinez and Charles Ellis, hundreds of miles away back in New Orleans.
At 1 p.m. that day, when three officers were on the clock protecting the mayor, records show the NOPD only had two officers patrolling the Sixth District.
Dillard Political Policy Professor Dr. Robert Collins says the mayor certainly needs executive protection, but the questions raised are valid.
“I can tell you, as a citizen, I don’t want my mayor walking by herself in the French Quarter at night,” Collins says. “I’m still just a little dumbfounded as to why the mayor of the City of New Orleans would ever be walking by herself in the French Quarter at night if she or her staff are truly concerned with her personal safety and her security.”
While the mayor walks alone late at night in the French Quarter, she sometimes has as many as four officers being paid at the exact same time to protect her.
In Wednesday’s press conference, Mayor Cantrell provided scant details on what those officers might be doing for the taxpayer money they’re collecting.
“But no information as to what they might be doing?” asked Fox 8 reporter Andres Fuentes.
“I know exactly what they’re doing, as well as the superintendent as well,” Cantrell replied. “But the constant focus on my executive protection - one, is unfair. It puts not only me in jeopardy, it puts my protection team as well, meaning their safety, in jeopardy and that’s something I will not stand for, cannot tolerate, and it’s unfair. So that’s where I’m going to stay on that regard. Okay? Thank you.”
According to the New Orleans Police Department, the officers on Mayor Cantrell’s security detail are assigned solely to her and do not perform any other duties for the department.
Prior FOX 8 investigations looked into Vappie’s timesheets, possible payroll fraud, and a potentially-improper relationship with Cantrell. He was removed from Cantrell’s security team, and the NOPD launched an investigation into his timesheets. Deputy Ellis retired from the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s office in January. Monlyn and Martinez remain on her security team.
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