NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell refused to answer questions about her upcoming trip abroad on Thursday, barring reporters from taking photos at City Hall.
One of her staff answers some questions about her trip to the World Cities Summit in Singapore.
“There’s already a question about the mayor’s confrontation with the city council about to cut her travel budget, and now we’re running into a transparency issue,” said Dillard University political analyst Robert Collins.
Mayor Cantrell answered off-topic at a news conference on Wednesday, but did not answer any of our questions himself after news broke that she would be on her third overseas trip in more than a month.
“She’s an ambassador for the city, not just the cultural economy, but the entire economy of the city,” said communications director Gregory Joseph. “So, when she travels, she takes the city with her. She’s going, funded by city taxpayers, and it’s very important to her to do these jobs. When the climate change conversation is going on, it’s very important that we get involved.”
She will be the only one this weekend U.S. mayors will be attending the summit, which focuses on challenges such as climate change.
“If it’s really an important international climate change conference, why aren’t other coastal mayors in attendance?” Collins asked.
Public records show that travel costs last year were less than $39,000. This year, the taxpayer’s money was more than $82,000, not including her recent trips to Switzerland and France.
Council President Helena Moreno and Vice President JP Morrell are trying to limit spending by passing an ordinance that states $1,000 per trip for “non-essential” travel.
“The mayor doesn’t seem to be really interested in working with the city council to repair the relationship. Now, sooner or later, she’s going to have to do it because, you know, she’s in the first year of her second four-year term,” Collins said.
Commissioner Oliver Thomas is preparing to travel to Africa with the International Art Foundation. Thomas said he was on vacation and paid for the trip himself.
“Make sure the city gets reimbursed. I also didn’t get paid for that time because of the fight between Moreno and Morell and the Cantrell government,” Thomas said. “I don’t want to get involved, so I’m actually paying the per diem for all my own stuff.”
We asked how the mayor’s office is paying for the trip and whether they plan to further ban journalists from the media. We haven’t heard back yet.
Neither Moreno nor Morell were available for comment. regulations they set to limit travel spending will be discussed on Tuesday.
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