NOLA mayor finds herself in hot water... again

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Mayor LaToya Cantrell just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. The latest scandal to hit is one in which it is discovered that the Mayor of New Orleans is using a city-owned apartment for her own personal use. She isn’t paying rent. The city’s Metropolitan Crime Commission (MCC) sent a report to the city council asking for an investigation.


My, my. This woman is a magnet for corruption investigations.

Let’s do a quick tally. New Orleans was named as the city with the highest per capita murder rate. Then, due to a shortage of police, Cantrell spit balled that she may have to cancel Mardi Gras over safety and security concerns. That didn’t go over well. So, almost immediately, she walked that threat back. Next thing you know, there’s a recall petition being organized.

There was a big hullabaloo over the fact that the mayor flies first class to go overseas and yet her staff and security fly coach. So, there’s an investigation into this and calls for her to reimburse the city for the ticket price differences ($30,000). She refuses to do so, saying she has to fly first class because it’s really dangerous for black women to travel, or something.

And, finally, there is an investigation being launched into a non-profit Cantrell founded. She’s racking up quite a list of no-nos. Oh yeah, I almost forgot – she attended the trial of a juvenile in a mentorship program who was charged with carjacking. She supported him over the victim. Wow.

A city-owned apartment in the city’s Upper Pontalba building on Jackson Square is the latest entry to the list. The apartment is managed by the French Market Corp., a city-affiliated agency. It has a market rate of $2,991 per month. She has no intention of reimbursing the city because she said that past mayors have also used the apartment. Cantrell claims she is partaking in the same benefits they received. The MCC report included pictures of the mayor entering and leaving the apartment. It also presented witness testimony that she’s been spending nights. There is an allegation that Cantrell has used a city employee for maintenance work on the apartment.


City Council President Helena Moreno is asking for time to review the findings before agreeing to an investigation.

A spokesperson for Eugene Green, a Democrat who sits on the board of French Market Corp., said ‘Councilmember Green is not aware of any regulations or procedures that may have been violated.’

FMC records obtained by WWL-TV said that no rent was paid on the apartment between September 1, 2021 and July 31, 2022.

It’s also been alleged that a city employee has been used as a de facto building super to fix problems in the apartment.

The report shows Cantrell speaking with Byron Cornelison of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy about a leak in the bathroom and telling him when a good time to fix it would be.

She earlier wrote to him about getting Cox Cable employees to come fix the WiFi in the apartment.

The president of the MCC said this arrangement is improper and wants an investigation. The mayor’s communication director said there are no rules governing the apartment so she can use it rent-free.

Rafael Goyeneche, the president of the MCC, calls this arrangement improper for the mayor, saying ‘That’s an additional benefit tax-free that she’s been receiving. She doesn’t need to be residing there or using that. And I think that it’s a misuse and abuse of her authority. But I’m waiting to see what the city council’s position is.’

Goyeneche is demanding the council investigate.

‘The mayor’s usage of the city owned apartment at the Pontalba is consistent with the usage of previous mayors,’ Cantrell’s communications director, Gregory Joseph, responded. ‘In the 2013 franchise agreement there are no rules governing how that unit should be used and the FMC believes the mayor has no obligation to pay rent on that apartment because she’s using it in the same manner that previous mayors have enjoyed.’


As for the airline tickets, the city attorney ruled that the mayor should reimburse the city. The mayor’s top deputy said he is asking her to do so, too:

Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño, the highest-ranking member of the Cantrell administration, said in an interview with WDSU he will discuss the cost of the mayor’s first-class travel directly with her.

“As I mentioned in previous interviews, I was waiting on the city attorney’s opinion on this topic, and now it is clear,” Montaño told the television station. “I will fulfill my duties as the CAO, and it’s important that I follow through on all the rules and policies that I have to all other employees.”

Montaño’s statement follows City Attorney Donesia Turner’s opinion, made public this week, that the mayor, like all other city employees, is subject to a policy that employees are responsible for paying for airfare that is upgraded from coach or business class. The policy was last revised in July with Montaño’s authorization.

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities and holds a lot of sentimental value for me. I hate seeing what is happening to it. However, corruption in city government is nothing new in New Orleans. The grift is strong and always has been. It sounds like this mayor intends to keep the status quo.

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