New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, a Democrat, admitted to living in a $3000-a-month luxury apartment rent-free just weeks after being caught blowing $30,000 on first-class fights, all funded by the taxpayer.
Last month, Cantrell was caught spending city funds on first class air travel, saying economy class was ‘unsafe’ for black women.
Cantrell’s opulent apartment is located in the city’s Upper Pontalba building on Jackson Square in the famous district.
The apartment, which has a market rate of $2,991 per month, is owned by the city and managed by the French Market Corp.
A spokesperson for Cantrell said the Mayor had done nothing wrong, arguing that everything is legal according to the city’s terms with French Market Corp.
But despite Cantrell’s spokesperson’s claims, the city’s Metropolitan Crime Commission sent a report asking for an investigation into the Mayor’s use of the apartment.
Images of Cantrell going in and out of the apartment are included in the MCC report, as well as allegations she had been staying overnight regularly at the apartment.
City Council President Helena Moreno has requested time to review the evidence before commencing an investigation.
A French Market Corp board member spokesperson, Eugene Green, said he isn’t aware of any regulations or procedures that may have been violated.’
According to FMC records, which WWL-TV obtained, no rent was paid on the apartment between September 1, 2021, and July 31, 2022.
It has also been alleged that a city employee has been used as a de facto building super to fix problems in the apartment.
The report shows Cantrell speaking with Byron Cornelison of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy about a bathroom leak. She requested Cox Cable employees to fix the WiFi in the apartment.
The president of the MCC, Rafael Goyeneche, said the arrangement is improper for the Mayor, adding “That’s an additional benefit tax-free that she’s been receiving. She doesn’t need to be residing there or using that. And I think that it’s a misuse and abuse of her authority. But I’m waiting to see what the city council’s position is.”
Goyeneche has demanded an investigation from the council.
“The mayor’s usage of the city-owned apartment at the Pontalba is consistent with the usage of previous mayors,” Cantrell’s communications director, Gregory Joseph, responded.
“In the 2013 franchise agreement, there are no rules governing how that unit should be used and the FMC believes the mayor has no obligation to pay rent on that apartment because she’s using it in the same manner that previous mayors have enjoyed.”
Mayor’s luxury lifestyle
The Mayor recently declared economy class passenger flights unsafe for black women and refused to repay $30,000 of taxpayers’ money blown on first-class flights.
“My travel accommodations are a matter of safety, not of luxury,” Cantrell said Thursday at a press conference.
“As all women know, our health and safety are often disregarded and we are left to navigate alone. “
“As the mother of a young child whom I live for, I am going to protect myself by any reasonable means in order to ensure I am there to see her grow into the strong woman I am raising her to be,” the Mayor said.
“Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world black women walk in,” she added.
Cantrell spent around $10,000 on her own flatbed seat while blowing a similar amount on first-class return to France in 2022, while her aides were forced to travel by coach.
Cantrell said her luxury jet-set lifestyle was to help her do business on behalf of the city, saying she wouldn’t be safe traveling economy.
The law department is still examining whether Cantrell must repay the $30,000 in taxpayer money for first-class tickets.
The Mayor faced a firey reposne during a press conference when asked if she considered paying out to replenish city coffers.
“All expenses incurred doing business on behalf of the city of New Orleans will not be reimbursed to the city of New Orleans,” Mayor Cantrell said, speaking outside the Nix Library.
“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!” she said.
But the city’s travel policy says otherwise:
“Employees are required to purchase the lowest airfare available…Employees who choose an upgrade from coach, economy, or business class flights are solely responsible for the difference in cost.”
The policy also states:
“Any reconciliation of travel expenses that results in overpayment by the City requires that the employee reimburse the City within twenty business days.”