Democrat mayor of New Orleans LaToya Cantrell refuses to pay back the nearly $30,000 in government funds she used to upgrade flights to first class or business class, including one $18,000 first-class trip to France over the summer. Cantrell said she would not pay back the funds despite city policy, claiming it was necessary for her protection as a black woman.
According to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate, Cantrell has charged the city of New Orleans $29,000 to fly first- or business-class instead of coach since January 2021. Although City Hall policy requires employees to pay the difference when they upgrade from coach seats, Cantrell stated, “All expenses incurred doing business on behalf of the city of New Orleans will not be reimbursed to the city of New Orleans.” She added, “One thing is clear: I do my job, and I will continue to do it with distinction and integrity every step of the way. That’s what I have to say on that.”
The policy says, “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.” Additionally, it states, “Any reconciliation of travel expenses that results in overpayment by the City requires that the employee reimburse the City within twenty business days.”
Her administration is questioning whether Cantrell is compelled to follow the travel restrictions as an elected official in the same way as rank-and-file employees. Gilbert Montano, Cantrell’s chief administrative officer, said it’s unclear if the reimbursement policy truly extends to elected officials. Cantrell has justified the excessive amount of public money she spent on herself, saying it was for her safety and not for luxuries. She claimed, “Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world Black women walk in.”
While Cantrell pushes back on repaying the city, a recent survey reveals high support for her recall. A poll from WVUE, conducted between August 30 and September 1, showed that 55.4% of the 400 registered voters polled support her removal from office.
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