New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is under fire for first class travel, which she says is for her safety as a black woman



CNN

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell says she won’t pay the city for her first-class travel, despite city policy requiring workers to pay the difference for upgraded fares, because of her safety concerns as a black woman and because of Covid. -19 epidemic.

“Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself doesn’t understand the world that black women walk in,” Cantrell said in a recent statement to multiple news organizations in New Orleans.

“Accommodations for my trip are a matter of safety, not luxury. As all women know, our health and safety are often disregarded and we are left to navigate alone,” she said.

The mayor has come under fire in recent weeks for the high cost of his first-class air travel, which city officials believe is nearly $30,000 more than the policy allows employees to spend. Cantrell has repeatedly said that the expenses incurred are at the expense of the municipality.

The mayor was criticized for not explaining the safety of her travel accommodation as a black woman. CNN declined all requests for comment through its communications office.

However, he addressed the question with CNN affiliate WDSU this week and cited the Covid-19 epidemic as one of the reasons.

“A few things changed because of Covid. One, me flying with security and my seat assignment – completely connected to my health and my well-being. No doubt. Also, many people don’t know about some of the anxiety levels I have, however, Covid, I had to pivot, and I had to pivot to make sure I’m traveling with safety,” he said. . “And I have to be at my best in it.”

Documents obtained by WDSU through a public records request show that the mayor’s July flight to France to promote New Orleans was $17,854.57 for his flight alone. On the same flight, Cantrell’s security person and two other employees flew economy.

Records show the total cost of the trip to France for the city of New Orleans, where it signed a sister city agreement with the resort town of Antibes, France, was more than $43,000.

WDSU’s investigation also showed that Cantrell’s June trip to Switzerland to promote a New Orleans Jazz-Fest-type event cost the city more than $16,600 in airfare and hotels for the mayor and two staffers. The station reported that Cantrell’s alone was nearly $10,000.

While the mayor’s communications office declined to comment on the matter, it sent CNN the city’s travel policy, which reads: “Employees must purchase the lowest available airfare.” The policy also states that “Employees who choose an upgrade from coach, economy or business class flights are solely responsible for the cost difference.”

But New Orleans Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montano told CNN affiliate WVUE that the mayor’s first-class airfare cost the city nearly $30,000 and the city is still considering whether the mayor will have to pay it back.

In a recent press conference, the mayor said he would not return to the city.

“All expenses incurred in doing business on behalf of the City of New Orleans will not be reimbursed to the City of New Orleans,” he 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.”

Although she declined to comment to CNN, New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno tweeted in August: “I definitely want the mayor to be safe. So if he felt he needed security, he should have taken an economy class with him.

Dillard University public policy professor Robert Collins said the mayor has violated city policy.

“He gets a salary from the municipality. The President of the United States is an employee of the federal government. The governor of Louisiana is an employee of the state government. Being elected does not mean that they are not workers. We have looked back and forth at politics; there is no exception,” Collins said. “It’s standard policy at every agency I’m affiliated with, what I’ve been hired for, what I’ve learned.”

In response to reports questioning the mayor’s travel expenses, a spokesman for the New Orleans City Council president said the city passed an ordinance in early August in which it said it was looking for ways to “reduce spending on services and initiatives that do not have an immediate benefit to the city.” To the people of New Orleans; and reducing City-funded travel expenses is a way for city management to ease the strain on City resources.”

Moreno and City Vice President JP Morrell introduced the essential and essential travel ordinance for elected officials and city employees, according to the measure.

A petition to recall the mayor has been filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office. The reason for recalling the requests is “failure to put New Orleans first and fulfill the responsibilities of the position.”