Records requested by WWL-TV are incomplete but show at least $60,000 in travel-related expenses so far this year.
NEW ORLEANS — Mayor LaToya Cantrell has spent more than $60,000 on travel in 2022, despite canceling a planned trip to Singapore amid criticism of her appetite for far-flung destinations and a growing manpower crisis at the NOPD.
The Singapore trip would have been the mayor’s third foreign trip in five weeks, but even if he pulls the plug on that visit, city records obtained by WWL-TV show the mayor has made at least six out-of-state trips in 2022. As the station first reported in the Travel Record, Cantrell has been embroiled in a series of new controversies, but he still found time to travel to Washington, D.C. recently for a meeting Monday with a city attorney to lobby for an end to the decade-long NOPD consent decree.
Records of his previous trips reveal a hectic travel schedule in which Meyer often flies first class and usually brings a team that includes a security detail and a “social media specialist.”
Cantrell’s frequent flyer status prompted City Council elected officials to draft an ordinance that would strictly restrict travel for “non-essential” trips, but the largely watered-down version adopted unanimously last week only sets stricter controls, such as quarterly travel reports and expedited submissions. of travel costs after travel.
Travel documents obtained by WWL-TV through a public records request are incomplete, but show expenses that include $9,810 in airfare just for a trip to Ascona, Switzerland, to sign a “sister city” agreement and attend a jazz festival.
His lodging and food expenses for that trip were not provided in the records, nor were the names of others in his traveling party. But on previous out-of-state trips, Cantrell was accompanied by five city employees. For example, during his trip to the American Conference of Mayors in Washington, DC in January, the city brought Deputy Chief of Staff Jabri Walker, Director of Intergovernmental Relations Arthur Walton, former Director of Strategic Initiatives Joshua Cox, Executive Advisor Clifton Davis and, for security, Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey Vappi.
The records for Cantrell’s trip to Switzerland were incomplete and did not show the full cost, but he was accompanied by Christy Johnson “Executive Security, and Security Social Media Raven Frederick, who posted various colorful videos on the mayor’s Instagram at various cultural events. Events.
Cantrell did not address reporters – or allow them in the same room – at an unrelated media event before he 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 “embed” with the distraught NOPD to get a response from the officers.
Speaking in late July after the same press event where reporters were barred, communications director Gregory Joseph defended the mayor’s frequent flying habits.
“It doesn’t matter where the mayor is, whether he’s here or he’s on an international trip bringing the city’s culture and all the talent we have to other parts of the world, we’re always focused on getting things done. of the mayor of the city of New Orleans,” Joseph said. “When she travels, when she takes the city with her, she goes to city taxpayer funds. And it is very important for him to do these things. ”
But City Council members said they began hearing negative comments from constituents about the mayor’s busy travel calendar, which led to the introduction of the travel ordinance.
“I think this latest (cancelled Singapore trip) really seems to move the needle on people,” said Councilman Joe Giarrusso. “Before there was concern about these trips, but now you have three overseas in a month, people want leaders who understand what’s going on, who can explain what’s going on, and are available.”
“We’re getting heat on these quality-of-life issues … we need people 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 bang for the buck, given the hefty costs of the mayor’s frequent foreign trips.
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