Nov 2, 2023 - Politics

Mayor LaToya Cantrell's trip to France cost $35K, but most of it was gifted

Photo illustration of LaToya Cantrell with lines radiating from her.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Kaitlyn Morris/Getty Images

Mayor LaToya Cantrell spent more than $35,000 to go to France this fall with three staffers, but the bulk of the expenses were gifted to the city, records show.

Why it matters: Cantrell's past international travel sparked criticism that eventually led to her repaying the city nearly $29,000 for travel upgrades like first-class airfare to Europe.

  • The France trip was at least her fourth international work trip in the past year or so. In May, she went to a climate conference in South Korea. Last year, she went to France and Switzerland.

The delegation: Cantrell went on the four-day trip with her now-suspended communications director Gregory Joseph and a member of her executive protection team, Robert Monlyn.

  • Rosine Pemasanga, the city's director of international relations, also went. But as of Tuesday, the city's legal office said her travel expenses were not available. The totals below do not include Pemasanga's expenses.

By the numbers: Cantrell's flights via Air France cost nearly $23,000, according to documents released by the city after a public records request from Axios.

  • The International Association of Francophone Mayors paid for Cantrell's flights, along with her staffers. The total was $31,759.81.
  • Cantrell flew business class while at least two of her staffers were in economy.
  • The French city of Orléans and the International Association of Francophone Mayors paid for the hotels – a total of $3,126.87.

Yes, but: The city did pay for meals and cabs, totaling $1,351.84 for Cantrell and her two staffers.

Purpose of the trip: Cantrell went to Orléans to meet with her counterpart there and renew a sister city agreement.

  • The mayor was scheduled to "share and exchange dialogue on each city's climate adaptation efforts, including water conservation," according to a statement from the city. Plus, her delegation attended the Festival de Loire.
  • She was also scheduled to go to Paris for its New Orleans Jazz Festival but returned early amid the saltwater intrusion crisis.

Between the lines: When a civil servant accepts free admission, lodging or transportation, they have to get prior permission from the head of their agency and then submit the certification to the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

  • Gilbert Montaño, the city's chief administrative officer, and Cantrell certified the statements, saying the gifts for lodging and transportation would be "of direct benefit to the agency."
  • It wasn't immediately clear Wednesday if the state Board of Ethics had processed the paperwork already.
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