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

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has admitted to living rent-free in a luxury city-owned apartment in the French Quarter – just weeks after it was revealed she had spent nearly $30,000 of public funds for several first-class tickets to Europe.

The Democratic mayor, 50, defended living in the $3,000-a-month apartment in the Jackson Square section at city expense, saying it was not illegal for her to do so.

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

“In the 2013 franchise agreement, there are no rules governing the use of this unit and the FMC believes that the mayor has no obligation to pay rent for this apartment because she is using it from the same way as previous mayors.”

The chic free pad enjoyed by Cantrell is in the historic Pontalba building located in the Jackson Square section of the French Quarter.
Universal Images Group via Getty

But an investigation released last week by news station WVUE-TV accused her of potentially violating a city employee policy that reads: “Use of city property is at work-related purposes and not for personal benefit”.

The controversial mayor has apparently lived in the swanky apartment for months, even bringing in a city employee to act as the apartment’s superintendent, according to a separate report Thursday from the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a dedicated citizens’ organization. exposing public corruption.

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

Cantrell rides in the Mardi Gras procession
Cantrell, seen earlier this year in a Mardi Gras procession, defended her use of the free apartment.
Getty Images

He also revealed that the mayor – who earns $188,000 a year – had installed privacy screens on the balcony and received packages at the address, according to the report.

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

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

A photo of Cantrell in front of 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 repeatedly enlisted a worker from his office as a handyman to fix the apartment’s shower and internet and run other errands.

“I was with the mayor in Apt on Saturday and she says she still doesn’t provide him with a hot shower,” Bryon Cornelison, deputy program director for the mayor’s office of cultural economy, reportedly said in an email. email from January 24 to the property. Manager of the French Markets Company.

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

“Tomorrow between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. is fine with me, Bryon. You or security will have to be present,” the mayor reportedly wrote to him.

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

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

City Council President Helena Moreno said she would consider MMC’s request for an investigation to “verify” whether the mayor is “complying with city policy and/or state law.”

A photo from the MMC report.
The MMC on Thursday sent a report detailing Cantrell’s use of the apartment to the city council.
Metropolitan Crime Commission

“It’s an additional non-taxable benefit that she receives. She does not need to reside there or use it. And I think that’s a misuse and abuse of his authority. But I’m waiting to see what the city council’s position is,” MMC president Rafael Goyeneche reportedly said.

A day after Goyeneche’s report was released, the city’s chief administrative officer said Cantrell should reimburse the city $29,000 in first-class ticket upgrades.

The mayor had incurred travel costs on flights to France and Switzerland. Its in-flight upgrades cost up to nine times more than aides who traveled by coach, the Times-Picayune said.

On September 10, Cantrell held a press conference to defend his expensive seats and told the media that it was unsafe for black women to travel by coach.

Cantrell speaking in a file photo
Cantrell was ordered to repay taxpayers $29,000 in first-class upgrades on Friday. She had justified that the expensive tickets were necessary because it was not safe for a black woman to travel by coach.
Getty Images for Petrol

“Anyone who wants to ask how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world that black women walk around in,” she reportedly said, while saying “travel accommodation is about safety, not luxury.” .

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

“After receiving this information, it appears to apply to her, and quite frankly, I have to fulfill my duties as CAD and ensure that these rules and responsibilities are applied to everyone,” reportedly said. Administrative Director Gilbert Montano. .

Cantrell had insisted on not reaching out to reimburse taxpayers for his expensive flights, saying it was important to travel in style while representing New Orleans.

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