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City Council eyes cutting Cantrell's pay to get back $30k in flight upgrades

City Council President Helena Moreno said the mayor's current salary is around $188,000, but they may consider cutting it to about $158,000.

NEW ORLEANS — The city council may force Mayor LaToya Cantrell to pay back nearly $30,000 in upgraded travel expenses by cutting her 2023 salary.

The city council sets the mayor's salary each year through a council ordinance. City Council President Helena Moreno said the mayor's current salary is around $188,000, but the council may consider cutting it to about $158,000 if she doesn't pay back the city for upgrading her flights to business and first class.

"I think what's interesting is that she followed the rest of the policy as far as turning in documentation, paperwork, et cetera, with her travel," Moreno said on the Eyewitness Morning News. "But the one thing she didn't follow was reimbursing the city for upgraded luxury travel. Many of us councilmembers are incredibly disappointed by this and hope she comes to her senses and pays the city back."

Moreno went on to explain that an ordinance would allow the council to dock her pay.

"I hope she comes to her senses and pays the city back, because if not, I believe the council is going to be forced to move forward with an ordinance that docks her pay in 2023 by roughly $30,000," Moreno said.

She's referring to "Section 4-203 - Compensation" of the City Charter which reads:

"The salary and other compensation of the Mayor shall be provided by ordinance. No change in the salary and other compensation made during the last six months of any term shall be valid as to the Mayor elected for the succeeding term. The Council shall provide in the annual operating budget a contingent fund of no less than $5000 to be expended by the Mayor for such public purposes as the Mayor may deem proper."

In addition, the city's travel policy states, "Employees are required to purchase the lowest airfare available." It goes on to say, "Employees who choose an upgrade from coach, economy or business class flights are solely responsible for the difference in cost."

Mayor Cantrell has defended her first class airfare saying it's for her safety and mental health. She has said she wouldn't pay it back.

"All expenses incurred doing business on behalf of the City of New Orleans will not be reimbursed to the City of New Orleans. One thing is clear: I do my job," Cantrell said earlier this month.

If the council decides to adjust the mayor's 2023 salary, they would have to approve the change by Dec. 1, that's the deadline to finalize next year's budget.

Mayor Cantrell's Press Secretary, John F. Lawson II, M.S., released the following statement:

"While the City Council leadership is focused on decreasing the Mayor's salary, we are laser-focused on increasing salaries for over 4,000 hard-working and dedicated City employees. We are grateful for the Council's appropriation of a five percent cost of living adjustment payment that our people have earned and can expect to receive within weeks. We look forward to working with the City Council in the spirit of collaboration to receive approval to also provide employees with a 10 percent raise over the course of the next three years.

New Orleans has been faced with and has overcome several unprecedented challenges as a city, and this administration is committed to prioritizing and demonstrating our appreciation for every single public servant who continues to put the needs of the residents before themselves every single day."

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