New Orleans mayor reverses course, will repay $30,000 in excess travel expenses to city

Embattled New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell says she will now reimburse the city for expenses related to flight upgrades she made during her recent travels.

“I will have to reimburse the city for those business expenses,” Cantrell tells CNN affiliate WDSU.

The mayor came under fire after she initially claimed the flight upgrades were due to safety concerns she faced as a Black woman and due to personal Covid-19 precautions.

New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno told WDSU in a statement “It’s important that everyone plays by the same rules and that reimbursements are made to the City when required.” New Orleans Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño told CNN affiliate WVUE the mayor’s first-class airfares cost the city nearly $30,000.

CNN has reached out to Montaño and City Council President Moreno for comment.

Cantrell initially rebuffed calls for her to reimburse the city claiming the upgrades were necessary as a matter of safety not luxury.

Documents obtained by WDSU show that in July, the mayor attended events in France to promote New Orleans and ran up flight expenses totaling $17,854.57. On that same flight, Cantrell’s security person and two other staffers flew economy.

Documents also show Cantrell ran up nearly $10,000 in airfare for herself during a trip to Switzerland the month before.

WDSU reports the city attorney ruled Cantrell is a city employee and according to policy, any flight upgrades must be paid for by the employee. “As I mentioned in previous interviews, I was waiting on the city attorney’s opinion on this topic, and now it is clear,” Montaño told WDSU.

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