NEW ORLEANS — In a story first reported by our partners at the Times Picayune, New Orleans Advocate, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell may be on the hook for close to $30,000 in air travel upgrades.
Travel documents obtained by WWL-TV show Cantrell, more often than not, chooses to fly in either business or first class.
Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche says the city’s long-standing travel policy requires city employees to travel in coach.
“We see that she has upgraded her travel accommodations contrary to city policy at the expense of taxpayers,” Goyeneche said.
Here’s just two recent examples:
In March, the mayor spent more than $2,800 to fly first-class to Miami for a U.S. Conference of Mayors gathering.
That’s about nine times the $342 NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson paid to fly economy to the same meeting. Other staffers paid $677.
In January, the mayor spent more than $2,300 to fly first-class to a Conference of Mayors’ meeting in Washington, DC.
The rest of her entourage paid $250.
The mayor has now racked up more than $29,000 in extra airfare.
City Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montano said he’s doesn’t know if the mayor intends to reimburse the city for the overages.
“Not in the loop, nor have I had that conversation with the mayor,” Montano said. “I’m not frankly aware of any of that information, right now. I guess it’s something we have to discuss. I have to discuss it with her, the law department and everything of the sorts.”
We also asked Montano to explain the city’s travel policy.
“Once again, I do not want to speak without knowing all the information, specifically, so a good studious way to do it is to make sure I’m looking and evaluating that in conjunction with the law department, so I have a better realization of what the policy states,” he said.
But just last month, Montano clarified the policy in a ten-page memo.
It states, “Employees are required to purchase the lowest airfare available.”
And that “Employees who choose an upgrade from coach, economy or business class flights are solely responsible for the difference in cost.”
The policy also states, “Any reconciliation of travel expenses that results in overpayment by the City requires that the employee reimburse the City within twenty (20) business days.”
“I think the public now recognizes and have had enough of her misguided approach to what she’s entitled to,” Goyeneche said.
Last week, Mayor Cantrell said the travel upgrades were necessary for her safety.
Mayor Cantrell released a statement shortly after this story aired saying:
"My travel accommodations are a matter of safety, not of luxury. As all women know, our health and safety are often disregarded and we are left to navigate alone. As the mother of a young child whom I live for, I am going to protect myself by any reasonable means in order to ensure I am there to see her grow into the strong woman I am raising her to be. Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world black women walk in."