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City Council prepared to dock Mayor's salary if airfare upgrades aren't reimbursed

Council President Helena Moreno says the city charter gives them the power to reduce the mayor's salary if she doesn’t pay for first class tickets.

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno and Vice President JP Morrell say the city charter allows for the City Council to set the mayor's salary, and if Mayor LaToya Cantrell does not pay back her travel expenses, they may dock her salary by around $30,000 in 2023.

In an interview with the Eyewitness Morning News, Moreno and Morrell were adamant in their request that the mayor reimburse the city after she's taken a series of overseas trips with first class tickets over the course of the year.

"I think what's interesting is that she followed the rest of the policy as far as turning in documentation, paperwork, etcetera, with her travel," Moreno said. "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."

Mayor Cantrell has previously refused to pay the city roughly $29,000 she charged this year to upgrade her city air travel to business and first-class.

Earlier this month, Cantrell said that all expenses she incurred while doing business on behalf of the city do not need to be reimbursed.

The city’s travel policy states, “Employees are required to purchase the lowest airfare available…Employees who choose an upgrade from coach, economy, or business class flights are solely responsible for the difference in cost.”

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.

"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.

The city charter allows the city council to set the mayor's yearly salary.

"You look at all the city employees in government currently, who are required by policy to reimburse the city for all their travel expenses above what's approved, and for the mayor to publicly take the position of 'I am special' and all of you single, Black women in government who are paying for those upgrades, you do you and I (am going to) do me," Morrell said.

The excerpt regarding the mayor's pay begins around the 9:40 mark of the video above.

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