Mayor Cantrell again defends use of Pontalba, opposes possible rule changes

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 5:39 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she opposes any changes to her use of the city-owned Upper Pontalba apartment.

In a routine press conference on Wednesday (March 29) Mayor Cantrell also said there is nothing inappropriate about her security team members running her personal errands.

The New Orleans Police Department is down more than 300 officers and as crime continues to be a problem, former members of the mayor’s executive protection team have complained about holding her purse and doing her shopping.

More: Former Cantrell protectors describe holding mayor’s purse, doing her shopping, chauffeuring daughter

“Executive protection is about aiding me and doing my job at every level,” Cantrell said. “If that is taking care of personal matters for me, absolutely because it allows me to do my job.”

After a series of Fox 8 investigations into Officer Jeffrey Vappie showed him frequently at the Pontalba building, sometimes watering plants, the Inspector General has called on the council to rent the apartment back out to the public.

Mayor Cantrell said there is nothing wrong with how she uses the apartment.

“I think the mayor of New Orleans should have flexibility,” she said. “That’s why the guidelines are the way they are; providing that flexibility.”

More: City Council to outline uses for Upper Pontalba Apartment unit

“This is problematic for several reasons,” Inspector General Ed Michel said. “One of the most important ones, as you know, we’re responsible for ensuring that the government uses very limited resources in a very efficient and effective manner.”

Michel sent a letter to the property managers, the French Market Corporation, urging them to stop allowing mayors to use the apartment, but the mayor says she is still using it and opposes new rules that might restrict its use.

“That was a practice for prior mayors and I don’t see why there’s a need to change,” she said.

Just a day after Mayor Cantrell prohibited her employees from attending consent decree hearings due to the manpower shortage, Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission says it’s time to revisit the four-person mayoral security plan.

“In light of the public safety crisis, the team should be pared down,” Goyeneche said. “It should not be required to do personal chores for her.”

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