NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— The controversy surrounding New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell’s travel costs could take a new turn after two city councilmembers said they may take the money she spent on flight upgrades out of her salary on Wednesday.
“If she doesn’t pay it back, I believe the council is going to be forced to have to reduce her salary by roughly the amount of the dollars that she spent on travel, which is around $30,000,” said city council president Helena Moreno.
With the council being the one to set the mayor’s salary as required by ordinance, Moreno and councilman JP Morrell’s proposal to dock Cantrell for travel expenses was the shot heard around the city. However, our WGNO Legal Analyst Cliff Cardone says doing so could pose other legal questions.
“That probably is a question of whether she is an employee or an elected official and whether she’s obligated,” Cardone told WGNO’s LBJ. “It’s probably going to require the courts to weigh in on that.”
The mayor’s refusal to pay the city back has angered many residents and has been a lightning rod for backers of the recall effort. One response on our WGNO Twitter account stated: “Absolutely yes, any other employee would get fired for running up personal expenses against company policy.”
Council president Moreno agrees.
“I think that just optics-wise, I wish that she would have come to her senses and paid it back and reimbursed the city for that luxury travel, but everything that I’ve seen and that you’ve reported on is that she’s not going to pay it back,” said Moreno.
The mayor’s press secretary, John Lawson released a statement to WGNO regarding docking the mayor’s salary, saying in part, “While the city council leadership is focused on decreasing the mayor’s salary, we are laser-focused on increasing salaries for over 4,000 hard-working and dedicated city employees. We are grateful for the council’s appropriation of a 5% cost of living adjustment payment that our people have earned and can expect to receive within weeks.