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Mayor Cantrell will reimburse city for travel upgrades

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell says she is working to repay the city about $30,000 for her travel upgrades after previously claiming she did not need to.

NEW ORLEANS — After standing defiant, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Tuesday she will pay the city back for about $30,000 in travel upgrades.

"As it relates to the thorough review of our policy by the CAO and the law department and keeping in much on that policy, not embedding anything relative to the emergency declaration, I am in fact deemed an employee of the City of New Orleans," Cantrell said Tuesday morning.

As an employee of the city, she has to follow city policy which means her flight upgrades have to come out of her own pocket.

Documents show the mayor has spent tens of thousands in first and business class tickets this year on behalf of the city. She previously argued the upgraded flights were for her safety and she had no intention of paying the city 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 September 9.

On Friday, the city's Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montano said Cantrell would have to pay the expenses back after a city attorney issued an opinion that the mayor is a city employee. He said that the mayor has to follow the city's policy which states employee are required to purchase the lowest airfare or pay for upgrades themselves.

"It turns out that is applicable to her, and in all candor I have to fulfill my duties as the CAO and ensure that those rules and responsibilities are effectuated to everybody," Montano said Friday. "It's something that I'm confident the mayor and I can sit down and discuss and resolve and have a solution very quickly."

City Council President Helena Moreno previously threatened to cut the mayor's salary next year if she didn't pay the money back.

"She was in violation of the policy so I'm glad she will be repaying the city and we can work to put this behind us," Moreno said.

"It is very clear business was done on behalf of the City of New Orleans however I will have to reimburse the city for those business expenses so I'm moving forward to do that. The good news is, as I've said, work done on behalf of the City of New Orleans," Cantrell said Tuesday.

It's still unclear how or when the mayor will reimburse the city.

"We will figure this out and we'll move forward and I'll have more information at some point relative to a timeline one way or another," Montano said Friday.

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