New Orleans Democrat Mayor LaToya Cantrell says racism forced her to charge local taxpayers nearly $30,000 for her first-class plane tickets to Europe.
At a press conference on Thursday last week, the two-term mayor was confronted over her extravagant travel in violation of municipal policy mandating city employees book “the lowest available airfare.”
“Employees who choose an upgrade from coach, economy, or business class flights are solely responsible for the difference in cost,” reads the city travel policy.
Cantrell, however, was defiant against charges of financial misconduct. She said she will not reimburse city taxpayers for her first-class upgrades to France and Switzerland.
“All expenses incurred doing business on behalf of the city of New Orleans, will not be reimbursed to the city of New Orleans,” Cantrell said. “One thing is clear: I do my job, and I will continue to it with do it with distinction, with dignity and integrity every step of the way. And so, that’s what I have to say on that.”
Cantrell said the purchase of first-class tickets while staff flew in economy was justified because planes are unsafe for black women.
“As all women know, our health and safety are often disregarded and we are left to navigate alone,” Cantrell added. “Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world black women walk in.”
According to The Daily Mail, “Cantrell spent around $10,000 on her own flat bed seat and blew a similar amount on a first-class return to France earlier this year – while her aides traveled in coach.”
Cantrell said the trips to France for a collective $40,000 were conducted out of respect for the city’s heritage.
“You’re talking about France, from which we’ve come, meaning part of the fabric of the City Of New Orleans. You’re talking about France, that has an ambassador living in the city of New Orleans,” Cantrell said at an August press conference.
The high-end trips to Europe are far from isolated episodes of the mayor spending taxpayer dollars to finance first-class travel while staffers fly coach for substantially less.
According to 4WWL, a local CBS affiliate, Cantrell charged more than $2,800 to constituent taxpayers for a first-class flight to Miami for a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in March. New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Shaun Ferguson, meanwhile, paid $342 on the same trip.
“Others paid $677,” the local outlet reported.
In January, Cantrell spent more than $2,300 on a first-class ticket to Washington D.C. for another meeting with the U.S. Conference of Mayors while “the rest of her entourage paid $250.”