New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell lives rent-free in a city-owned apartment

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has admitted to living rent-free in a luxury urban apartment in the French Quarter just weeks after it was revealed she was blowing nearly $30,000 in taxpayers’ money on several first-class tickets to Europe Has.

The 50-year-old Democrat mayor defended life in the $3,000 Jackson Square-area condo on the city’s cent, saying it wasn’t illegal for her to do so.

“The mayor’s use of the municipal apartment in the Pontalba is consistent with the use of previous mayors,” communications director Gregory Joseph told NOLA.com on Friday.

“There are no rules in the 2013 franchise agreement on how this unit should be used and the FMC believes that the mayor is not required to pay rent on this apartment because she is using it in the same way as previous ones women mayors have enjoyed.”

A picture of the Pontalba building where the mayor resides.
Cantrell’s swanky complimentary pad is located in the historic Pontalba building in the Jackson Square area of ​​the French Quarter.
Universal Images Group via Getty

However, an investigation published by news channel WVUE-TV last week accused them of possibly violating a city employee policy, which reads: “The use of city property is for work-related purposes and not for personal gain.”

The controversial mayor appeared to have lived in the posh apartment for months, even tapping a city employee as the apartment’s superintendent, according to a separate report Thursday from the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a civic organization dedicated to exposing public corruption.

The MMC report showed footage of Cantrell walking to and from the apartment in the historic Upper Pontalba building while a city-owned SUV is parked outside, according to WWL-TV.

Cantrell rides in carnival parade
Cantrell, who appeared at a carnival parade earlier this year, defended her use of the vacant apartment.
Getty Images

It also revealed that the mayor – who earns $188,000 a year – put up privacy screens on the balcony and received packages at the address, the article said.

The outlet noted that no rent was paid on the unit from September 1, 2021 to July 31, 2022. Apartment 530B has a market value of $2,991 per month, public records show.

WVUE-TV’s separate two-month investigation, released last week, found that the mayor was at the home almost every day over a 26-day period, staying for hours and sometimes staying the night.

A picture of Cantrell outside the apartment.
The mayor was photographed coming and going from the apartment by the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

Emails obtained by The Times-Picayune show that Cantrell has repeatedly hired a clerk from her office as a handyman to fix the apartment’s shower and Internet and run other errands.

“I was in the apt with the mayor on Saturday and she says she still can’t get a hot shower there,” Bryon Cornelison, deputy program director for the mayor’s office of cultural industries, reportedly said in an email dated Jan. 24 Property Manager French Market Corporation.

Two months later, the mayor reportedly emailed Cornelison to fix a bathroom leak.

“Tomorrow between 12:30 – 2:30 is good for me, Bryon. You or the security service should be present,” the mayor wrote to him.

A city spokesman confirmed to local media that Cantrell lived in the apartment and said the arrangement was not illegal or inappropriate.

“The mayor’s use of the municipal apartment in the Pontalba is consistent with the use of previous mayors,” reportedly said communications director Gregory Joseph.

“There are no rules in the 2013 franchise agreement on how this unit should be used and the FMC believes that the mayor is not required to pay rent on this apartment because she is using it in the same way as previous ones women mayors have enjoyed.”

Councilman Eugene Green, who serves on the board of directors of French Market Corp. sits, told WWL-TV that he saw no problem with the mayor’s releasers.

“Counselor Green is not aware of any rules or procedures that may have been violated,” his chief of staff, Sandra Thomas, reportedly said.

City Council President Helena Moreno said she will review MMC’s request for an investigation to “determine” whether it “complies with city policy and/or state law.”

An image of the MMC report.
The MMC sent a report to the City Council on Thursday detailing Cantrell’s use of the apartment.
Metropolitan Crime Commission

“That is an additional tax-free benefit that she receives. She doesn’t have to live there or use it. And I think it’s an abuse and abuse of their authority. But I’m waiting for the position of the city council,” MMC President Rafael Goyeneche reportedly said.

A day after Goyeneche’s report was released, the city’s chief administrator said Cantrell had to pay the city $29,000 in first-class ticket upgrades.

The travel expenses were incurred by the mayor on flights to France and Switzerland. Their in-flight upgrades cost up to nine times more than aides flying on the bus, The Times-Picayune said.

On September 10, Cantrell held a press conference to defend her expensive seats and told the media it was unsafe for black women to fly on the coach.

Cantrell speaks in a file photo
Cantrell was asked Friday to return $29,000 in top-of-the-line upgrades to taxpayers. She had reasoned that the expensive tickets were needed because it was unsafe for a black woman to fly on the bus.
Getty Images for Essence

“Anyone who wants to ask how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world Black women travel in,” she reportedly said, while claiming that “travel accommodations are a matter of safety, not luxury.”

Officials countered Friday that city employees are required to seek the cheapest travel options available or reimburse the city the difference.

“Having received this information, it turns out that applies to you, and in all honesty, I need to fulfill my duties as a CAO and ensure that those rules and responsibilities apply to everyone,” Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montano reportedly said.

Cantrell had insisted she not dig into her pocket to pay taxpayers back on her expensive flights, saying it’s important to travel in style while representing New Orleans.

“One thing is clear: I’m doing my job. And I will continue to do it with distinction, dignity and integrity every step of the way.” she said Reporter on September 8th.

https://nypost.com/2022/10/03/new-orleans-mayor-lives-rent-free-in-city-owned-apartment/ New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell lives rent-free in a city-owned apartment

JACLYN DIAZ

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