Records requested by WWL-TV are incomplete but show at least $60,000 in travel expenses so far this year.
NEW ORLEANS — Mayor LaToya Cantrell has spent more than $60,000 on travel in 2022, even after canceling a planned trip to Singapore amid criticism of her appetite for far-flung destinations and the growing NOPD workforce crisis.
The trip to Singapore would have been the mayor’s third trip abroad in five weeks, but even though she pulled the plug on that excursion, city records obtained by WWL-TV show at least six overseas trips by the mayor in 2022. The station first reported on the travel records, Cantrell has been embroiled in a series of new controversies, but she still found time recently to travel to Washington, D.C. for a meeting Monday with a city attorney to lobby to end the decade-long NOPD consent decree.
Records of her previous trips reveal a whirlwind travel schedule in which the mayor often flies first class and usually brings an entourage that includes a security detail and “social media specialist.”
Cantrell’s frequent traveler status prompted the City Council to draft an ordinance that severely limits travel for elected officials to “non-essential” trips, but the heavily watered-down version that passed unanimously last week simply imposes tighter controls such as quarterly travel reports and fast delivery. of travel costs after trips.
Travel documents obtained by WWL-TV through a public records request are incomplete, but show expenses that include $9,810 in airfare just to travel to Ascona, Switzerland to sign a “Sister City” deal. ” and to attend a jazz festival.
Her accommodation and food expenses for that trip were not listed in the records, nor were the names of others in her travel party. But on previous trips out of state, Cantrell was accompanied by up to five city employees. For example, during her trip to the US Conference of Mayors in Washington, DC in January, the city also paid Deputy Chief of Staff Jabarie Walker, Director of Intergovernmental Relations Arthur Walton, former Director of Strategic Initiatives Joshua Cox, Executive Advisor Clifton Davis and, for the defense, Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey Vappie.
Records for Cantrell’s trip to Switzerland were incomplete and did not show the full cost, but she was accompanied by Kristy Johnson for executive protection and social media security Raven Frederick, who posted a series of colorful Instagram videos of the mayor in various cultural. events.
Cantrell did not address reporters – or even allow them in the same room – during an unrelated media event a day before she left for Singapore to participate in a panel discussion at the World Cities Summit. The next morning, the mayor appeared on WBOK with radio host and councilman Oliver Thomas to announce that he had canceled the trip in order to “stick around” with the beleaguered NOPD to get feedback from officers.
Speaking in late July after the same press event at which reporters were barred, Communications Director Gregory Joseph defended the mayor’s frequent travel habits.
“It doesn’t matter where the mayor is, if he’s here or if he’s on an international trip bringing the culture of the city and all the genius that we have to other parts of the world, we’re always focused on getting the job done. of the mayor of the city of New Orleans,” said Joseph. “When she travels, when she takes the city with her, she’s going to fund the city’s taxpayers. And it’s very important that she does these things.”
But City Council members said they began hearing negative feedback from constituents about the mayor’s busy travel schedule, leading to the introduction of the travel ordinance.
“I think this last one (the canceled trip to Singapore) really seemed to hit a nerve with people,” Councilor Joe Giarrusso said. “There was concern about these previous trips, but now that you’ve had three in one month overseas, people want leaders who understand what’s going on, who can explain what’s going on and are also available.”
“As we’re getting heat for these quality of life issues…we need people who are around to address them,” Giarrusso said. “Number one, what do we get in return for the trip? And number two, how many people should go?
He said the council has legitimate questions about whether the city is getting its money’s worth given the high costs of the mayor’s frequent trips abroad.
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