The mayor of New Orleans has been facing backlash after taking almost 30,00 of taxpayers’ dollars to travel first-class to France and Switzerland. During a press conference, the elected officials says she couldn’t take economy class because certain commercial flights are sometimes unsafe for Black women.
On Sept. 8, Mayor Latoya Cantrell told reporters her reasoning for refusing to pay back $29,000 of the city’s budget for her travel to the European countries.
“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” she said during the reporters.
She added, “I will continue to do it with distinction, dignity, and integrity, every step of the way.
According to the Daily Mail, Cantrell said she flew first class from Washington Dulles Airport to Switzerland on her municipality’s dime.
“My travel accommodations are a matter of safety, not of luxury. As all women know, our health and safety are often disregarded, and we are left to navigate alone.” she said, “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.”
“Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world Black women walk in,” the mayor said.
The city’s travel policy says, “Employees are required to purchase the lowest airfare available.”
It goes on to state, “Employees who choose an upgrade from coach, economy or business class flights are solely responsible for the difference in cost. … Any reconciliation of travel expenses that results in overpayment by the City requires that the employee reimburse the City within twenty business days.”
It is unclear if these policy rules apply to the mayor, who spent approx. $10,000 to travel in a flat bed seat to Europe and almost the same on a tribute to France earlier in the summer.
She stated, “I do travel business class, absolutely. I need to be protected. … I need to be safe as I do business on behalf of the city of New Orleans.”
The controversy has had critics speaking out against the mayor.
Cantrell two European trips during the summer cost the city over $40,000 for the mayor, and three of her top aides’ travel. She says she went to the country to make a connection between the Southern city and its French roots.
“You’re talking about France, from which we’ve come, meaning part of the fabric of the city of New Orleans. You’re talking about France, that has an ambassador living in the city of New Orleans,” Cantrell said during an August press conference.
A week later, after returning from France to New Orleans, Cantrell went back to Ascona, Switzerland, to sign a “Sister City” agreement between the two metropolises. The flight to the city was $9,800 and $11,000 in expenses for the six-day trip.
Gilbert Montaño, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the office is “checking” to see if the executive is in violation of any laws.
“I think that’s still under review with law kind of determining the variations between the CAO policy, the elected official policy, and the different variations” he said.
“There’s no ultimate conclusion at this current moment,” he added. “Right now, it’s in law, and we are evaluating it and I think there would be a determination sooner rather than later.”