Mayor Cantrell defends use of Pontalba overnight during Essence Fest

Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 5:21 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Wednesday (July 26) defended her use of the Upper Pontalba Apartment, including overnight stays, during the Essence Fest weekend.

Video obtained by Fox 8 shows the mayor, several women, and a member of her executive protection team going in and out of the apartment over the course of the weekend.

“You know they say ‘there’s something about Mary?’ I’m starting to think there’s something about LaToya,” Mayor Cantrell said. “This is personal and I think it crosses the line, but that’s all I have to share on that.”

Cantrell refused to answer specific questions about her use of the city’s apartment or police escorts.

“What I would like to know is when did Fox 8 stop paying for footage directly and Lee Zurik pick up paying for it directly? I’ve stated that it’s overstepping. I’ve indicated the impact that this has had on me and the fact that you just continue... I have a problem with that,” she said.

She was referring to a public records request Fox 8 made on July 7 for video from a city-owned security camera outside the entrance to the Pontalba.

The French Market Corporation made the video available on July 11. Those public records usually come with a fee.

Fox 8 typically does not pay directly for expenses like this. An employee will cover the cost, submit an expense report, and then be reimbursed by the station.

Past requests were paid for by a member of Fox 8′s investigative team. That employee was not at work on July 11, unable to cover the cost.


New Orleans Inspector General again asks council to put Pontalba into commerce

Mayor Cantrell may have violated council ordinance with more overnight stays in Pontalba Apartment

What remains unclear is other than the mayor, who else stayed at the city’s Upper Pontalba Apartment over the Essence Fest weekend after the council passed an ordinance prohibiting overnight stays.

“I not only think it’s disrespectful, I think it crosses the line,” Cantrell said. “But as it relates to my [executive protection] team, as it relates to my family - totally off limits. So thank you very much.”

The mayor never answered the question about her use of motorcycle escorts by police officers who are not a part of her protection team.

Next month, the council is expected to vote on an ordinance to give the apartment back to the French Market Corporation.

“I am worried that the council would move to take away authority of the mayor of the City of New Orleans that has been in existence for over 93 years,” Cantrell said. “I think that targeting me specifically while I’m serving, that’s pretty dangerous. But relative to protections in place for the mayor of the City of New Orleans regardless of who the mayor is, that is something that matters to me because it’s not just LaToya Cantrell, it’s every other mayor that should have the flexibility of mayors of our past.”

It’s unclear how the mayor got information about who paid the fee for the public records request. The French Market Corporation says no one requested any information about those details.

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