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Council threatens to cut Mayor LaToya Cantrell's salary over pricey travel expenses

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The City of NOLA Facebook page
Mayor LaToya Cantrell announces the kick-off of a partnership to launch the Crescent City Card Program on Nov. 11, 2021. Guaranteed income program participants will receive the money on a MoCaFi immediate response card, which allows cities to distribute recurring payments, when the program begins in 2022.

City Council leaders threatened to cut Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s salary amid an ongoing spat involving the mayor’s use of city funds to cover travel expenses.

In an interview with WWL-TV on Wednesday morning, Council at-large members Helena Moreno and JP Morrell said city policy is clear: employees must book the cheapest flights available when traveling for work, and must repay the cost of upgraded tickets.

Cantrell told reporters earlier this month that she does not plan to repay the city for the roughly $29,000 she charged this year for first- and business-class flights for overseas trips geared around signing “sister city” agreements, according to NOLA.com. Members of Cantrell’s administration have said that it’s unclear whether the city’s reimbursement policy applies to the mayor.

But Moreno and Morrell suggested the Council could cut Cantrell’s salary next year to account for those expenses, if she doesn’t pay up.

“I believe the Council is going to be forced to go forward with an ordinance that docks her pay in 2023 by roughly $30,000,” Moreno said, adding that the city charter allows the Council to set the mayor’s pay.

A spokesperson for the Mayor’s office declined to address the proposed pay cut for the Mayor, and instead said the administration is focused on raising pay for city workers.

“While the City Council leadership is focused on decreasing the Mayor’s salary, we are laser-focused on increasing salaries for over 4,000 hard-working and dedicated City employees,” said John Lawson, the press secretary for the Mayor’s office, in an emailed statement to WWNO.

Lawson said the Mayor’s office is “grateful” for the Council’s recent appropriation of a 5% cost-of-living adjustment for city workers, and said the office hopes to work with the Council to secure a 10% raise for city employees over the course of the next three years.

Cantrell’s travel expenses have been central to critics of hers who have initiated a formal effort to recall her.

This story has been updated to include a response from the Mayor’s office.

Carly Berlin is the New Orleans Reporter for WWNO and WRKF. She focuses on housing, transportation, and city government. Previously, she was the Gulf Coast Correspondent for Southerly, where her work focused on disaster recovery across south Louisiana during two record-breaking hurricane seasons. Much of that reporting centered on the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in Lake Charles, and was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

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