New Orleans, LA – New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she will not pay taxpayers back for using nearly $30,000 to pay for first-class flight upgrades because flying economy is not safe for black women.
New Orleans city policies require municipal employees to purchase the lowest fare available when booking flights for their work-related travel, The Times-Picayune reported.
The policy further dictates employees must reimburse the city for upgrades and deluxe accommodations, according to WVUE.
Cantrell doled out $2,300 in taxpayer dollars to fly first class to Washington, DC, in January, FOX News reported.
She traveled first class to Miami for $2,800 in March, and took a first-class trip to Switzerland for $9,800 in June.
In July, Cantrell set off on a $17,000 first-class trip to France, FOX News reported.
That voyage, which simply involved the mayor signing off on an agreement with an existing partnership with a small city on the Mediterranean coast, cost taxpayers a whopping $43,000 altogether, according to The Times-Picayune.
The mayor’s flight expenses since January of 2021 were nine times the cost of those incurred by one of her aides who made the same treks traveling in coach.
“You compare the fact that $30,000 is just the difference in cost from a coach seat versus a first class, and the starting salary of our New Orleans Police Department is $40,000,” Bayou Mama Bears Founder Laura Cannizzaro Rodrigue told FOX News on Monday.
“We are the murder capital of the country right now with…one of the lowest police department employment rates. We just cannot keep police officers,” Rodrigue added. “It’s no wonder that the city has become the laughingstock of the country.”
Cantrell said during a press conference on Sept. 8 that she will not be reimbursing the city for her first-class travel and argued that all of her expenses and trips were made in an effort to make the city better, WVUE reported.
“All expenses incurred doing business on behalf of the city of New Orleans will not be reimbursed to the city of New Orleans,” the mayor declared. “One thing is clear; I do my job and I will continue to do it with distinction and integrity every step of the way.”
At yesterday’s press conference, @FOX8NOLA was the only station that asked Mayor LaToya Cantrell about whether or not she will reimburse thousands of dollars to the city for her travel upgrades.
Here’s her full statement: pic.twitter.com/swA2flFIkc
— Andrés Fuentes (@news_fuentes) September 9, 2022
Cantrell, a Democrat, previously blamed racism for her high-class travel needs.
“Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world black women walk in,” she said, according to The Times-Picayune.
“My travel accommodations are a matter of safety, not of luxury,” the mayor claimed. “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.”
According to the City of New Orleans’ Chief Administrative Office’s guidelines for official business travel, “employees are required to purchase the lowest airfare available,” WPMI reported.
Workers who “choose an upgrade from coach, economy, or business class flights are solely responsible for the difference in cost” under the policy.
Cantrell’s chief administrative officer, Gilbert Montano, said the city’s policy regarding employees’ duty to reimburse the city for luxury travel may not apply to the mayor because of her status as an elected official, The Times-Picayune reported.
“I think that’s still under review with law kind of determining the variations between the [Chief Administrative Office] policy, the elected official policy, and the different variations,” Montano told WVUE. “There’s no ultimate conclusion at this current moment. Right now, it’s in law, and we are evaluating it and I think there would be a determination sooner rather than later.”
Rodrigue said New Orleans residents have “become accustomed” to Cantrell’s “lack of shame” with regards to spending, FOX News reported.
“There is a complete disregard for the intelligence level of the citizens of Orleans Parish to think that any of us believe this,” she said. “It’s simply just her living off of the dime of the citizens of Orleans Parish and now boldly stating, ‘I refuse to pay it.’”
Rodrigue further argued the mayor may be committing a criminal offense.
“There is a policy in place requiring her to pay that,” she told FOX News. “It is technically a theft, the taking of something of value with the intent to permanently deprive it.”