According to the Daily Mail, the controversial Democratic mayor of New Orleans, Latoya Cantrell, has vowed to repay the city the $30,000 she claimed in city cash for luxury flights after living rent-free in a city-owned apartment just three miles away from her home.
Cantrell was forced to pay for the flights after a city attorney was brought in and determined that the mayor, a city employee, was compelled by policy to see the most low-budget fares or refund the city for the luxury expenses.
Cantrell spent almost $10,000 on her own flatbed seat and blew the same amount of a first-class return ticket to France earlier this year – while her staffers traveled in coach.
The under-fire mayor is already in trouble after admitting that she has been living in a government-owned apartment in the city’s French Quarter, rent-free, just three miles away from her $500k Broadmoor home.
Cantrell had previously caused outrage after she spent taxpayer money to pay for first-class tickets to travel to France and Switzerland. She claimed that economy class was “unsafe” for Black women and added that she had done nothing illegal.
“Based on the policy review of the CAO, as well as the law department, it is very clear that business was done on behalf of the city of New Orleans. However, I will have to reimburse the city for those business expenses,” she said without specifying when she would do so.
At first, Cantrell repeatedly refused to reimburse the expense of luxury American Airlines flights from Washington Dulles Airport to Switzerland for herself in July, despite a city ban on first-class air travel.
“My travel accommodations are a matter of safety, not of luxury,” Cantrell, who reportedly earns over $180K annually, said last Thursday at a press conference.
“As all women know, our health and safety are often disregarded, and we are left to navigate alone. Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world black women walk in.”
But New Orleans council members did not buy these excuses and threatened to dock her pay in the 2023 budget to recover the spent funds.
“I’m glad that we can put this behind us,” Council President Helena Moreno said in a statement.
“We have so many bigger issues to deal with. Obviously, with public safety. We’ve got the budget coming up, and that’s really what we’d like to be focused on.”
The policy execution to make the mayor refund the city for her luxury flights came after she had provided an exceptionally prickly answer to journalists on Thursday when she was questioned about the matter.
“All expenses incurred doing business on behalf of the city of New Orleans will not be reimbursed to the city of New Orleans,” Cantrell said.
“One thing is clear; I do my job, and I will continue to do it with distinction and integrity every step of the way. And so, that’s what I have to say on that!”
Meanwhile, the New Orleans’ Metropolitan Crime Commission sent a report to the city council last week asking for Cantrell’s use of the city apartment in the Upper Pontalba Building on Jackson Square.
The apartment is owned by the New Orleans government and managed by the French Market Corp, a city-affiliated agency, and reportedly has a market value of $2,991 per month.
A spokesperson for the mayor and the city council member on the FMC board has said that no “regulations or procedures have been violated.”
Nonetheless, the MCC report included images of Cantrell going in and out of the apartment several months ago, as well as allegations from witnesses claiming she has been staying overnight regularly at the apartment.
The records obtained by WWL-TV also indicated that no rent had been paid on the apartment between September 1, 2021, and July 21, 2022. It has also been alleged that a city staffer has been used as a de facto building super to fix issues in the apartment.
Council President Moreno is asking for time to review the findings before agreeing to any investigation.
Cantrell is not a stranger to property-related controversy. In 2014, the IRS placed a lien on her Broadmoor home for over $28k in unpaid taxes. Cantrell and her husband, Jason, owed $27, 564.99 in taxes, interests, and penalties for 2010, 2011, and 2012.