LaToya Cantrell, the Mayor of New Orleans, is under fire for racking up $30,000 more in travel expenses than the state’s travel policy allows for. According to CNN, the excess in expenses is largely due to Cantrell’s preference for first-class flying.

A petition has been filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office to recall the mayor. It cites “Failure to put New Orleans first and execute the responsibilities of the position” as the reason behind it.

City outrage:

The city of New Orleans wants the mayor to reimburse the costs of the upgrades. According to its travel policy, “Employees are required to purchase the lowest airfare available…employees who choose an upgrade from coach, economy or business class flights are solely responsible for the difference in cost.”

In June, Mayor Cantrell visited Switzerland to promote a jazz event, spending $16,600 for flights and accommodations for her and two of her staff members. Of the total, $10,000 was spent on her airfare.

In July, she spent $17,854.57 on her airfare to France, where she promoted New Orleans at various events. Her staff flew in economy. For another trip to France to sign an agreement with resort town Antibes, the total cost was over $43,000.

However, Mayor Cantrell says she will not reimburse the city. She cites her safety as a Black woman and concerns over COVID-19 as reasons justifying her travel preferences.

Her side:

“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 and I will continue to do it with distinction and integrity every step of the way,” she said at a press conference.

“Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world Black women walk in. 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.”

“There were some things that changed due to Covid. One, me flying with security, and my seat assignment–absolutely tied to my health and my well-being. No doubt about that. In addition to that, many may not know, some of the levels of anxiety that I do have, however, Covid, I had to pivot, and I’ve had to pivot with making sure I’m traveling with security.”

Mixed opinions:

Last month, Helena Moreno, President of the New Orleans City Council, tweeted, “I definitely want the mayor to be safe. So, if she felt she needed security, she should have flown economy class with him.”

“She draws a salary from the city. The president of the United States is an employee of the federal government. The governor of Louisiana is an employee of state government. The fact that they are elected officials does not mean they are not employees. We have looked at the policy backward and forward; there is no exception. It is standard policy in every agency that I have been affiliated with, that I have been contracted by, that I have studied.”

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