LaToya Cantrell’s stay in France: First-class travel, a visit to the Riviera and a side trip to Paris | News

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said her $43,000 summer trip to France served a legitimate public purpose: She shared with the city of 74,000 on the Mediterranean Sea, which she says will boost New Orleans’ international profile and spur economic development.

A one-day side trip he and staff took to Paris, which included airfare from the south of France and a stay at a hotel overlooking the Eiffel Tower, which averaged $726 a room, was not widely discussed, according to records obtained by the Times. The Times-Picayune.

Paris Antibes is more than 569 miles from the city of Juan-les-Pins, where Cantrell signed a sister-city agreement during his trip. In submitting his travel expenses, Cantrell said the purpose of the trip was to secure that partnership and attend two related events in the south of France.

He and his staff did not detail their trip to Paris when they submitted their expenses, including at least $1,660 on the flight from Nice and a $2,906 bill from the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel Hotel. It is unclear whether Cantrell paid for her flight to Paris herself, as that amount does not appear to be included in her reimbursement.

City Hall spokesman Gregory Joseph, who joined Cantrell on the trip, said the Parish mayor canceled a scheduled meeting with Cantrell at the last minute. Instead, Cantrell discussed “priorities that the two cities share” with another Parish official, Joseph said.

Asked about the cost of the Paris hotel, Joseph said: “I don’t make any travel arrangements. I go where they tell me to go.

Cantrell defended his trip to France at a press conference on Wednesday, saying a travel agent had selected a hotel in Paris.

“I can’t tell you why,” she said. “I’d say because that was available. I think it’s common sense.”

She also said that business class travel is related to her safety.

“I do travel business classes. Sure. I need to be protected,” Cantrell said. “I need to be safe doing business on behalf of the city of New Orleans.”

The mayor’s office offered no further explanation as to why Cantrell traveled first class for domestic connecting flights and business class for her flights abroad, or if the city’s reimbursement of her travel costs violated city policy. Joseph said he did not know if the city had a travel policy.

Cantrell flew to Europe on United Airlines, and that company’s business-class seats often cost four times more than coach, according to the airline’s website.

On his trip Joseph was accompanied by Chief of Staff Clifton Davis and Robert Monlin, a New Orleans police officer there for security.

The mayor’s friends all flew coach, and their flights cost taxpayers a combined little more than $17,000, records show. Cantrell’s flights cost about $17,850. Round-trip economy prices to Paris next month are about $1,240 per passenger, according to Google Flights.

The trip was booked through Going Places Travel, Inc. in Metairie. The company’s owner did not return messages.

The biggest stories in the business, delivered to you every day. Sign up today.

“Magic City”

The trip’s itinerary shows that Cantrell’s deal was concluded with the mayor of Antibes Juan-les-Pins on the first evening of the three-day trip. Cantrell and staff also attended the Jazz-a-Juan International Jazz Festival that night at a waterfront venue surrounded by pine groves.

French officials treated Cantrell the next day to a walk along the sun-drenched French Riviera, a visit to the Picasso Museum and a beach dinner with panoramic views of the Bay of Angeles.

Joseph said New Orleans is interested in bringing a traveling Picasso exhibit to the New Orleans Museum of Art. Cantrell and French officials from the coastal city discussed flooding issues and “the similarity of our cultures,” Joseph said.

“It was more about learning or understanding the city and learning how our relationship in the Sister City interacts with them,” Joseph said.

Cantrell and staff took a 90-minute flight to Paris the next morning, where Joseph said Cantrell met with mayoral officials and the principal of a school for at-risk youth. The group visited a Paris museum, Joseph said, as he posted photos of samples of local fare, including onion tarts, beef tartare and bottles of green chartreuse.

“It’s a beautiful summer day in a magical city,” Joseph said in a video.

The trip has been criticized

For the three-day trip, Cantrell and the staff were reimbursed about $395 per day for each meal, records show.

Cantrell — who also took a $16,600 taxpayer-funded trip to Switzerland in June — faced criticism this summer that she was out of the country when a crime wave swept through New Orleans and NOPD officers were hemorrhaging.

She eventually canceled an August trip to Singapore and vowed to “embed” with police over the response to what officials described as a staffing crisis.

Cantrell recently emphasized that the city should budget conservatively, as revenues may not reach pre-pandemic levels for the next three years.

She wants to pay for a $39 million plan to raise the salaries of about 4,300 employees by eliminating a yet-to-be-determined number of vacant positions — possibly in the hundreds — permanently shrinking the size of city government.

Speaking at a community meeting in New Orleans East on Aug. 15, Cantrell said, “We want this city to be fiscally responsible and fiscally sound, and make prudent decisions in our practices.”

Ben Myers contributed reporting.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.