The City Council approves new travel rules after the mayor’s trips abroad

The ordinance requires all travel details to be available within three business days.

NEW ORLEANS — After numerous complaints this summer about the mayor’s recent trips abroad, the City Council took steps to hold elected leaders accountable when they spend public money on travel.

Council members say it’s a step toward making city officials more transparent when it comes to making trips.

Councilor Oliver Thomas had left the meeting, but on Thursday afternoon the other six members of the council voted “yes” to adopt a new ordinance governing the travel policy.

Council Vice President JP Morrell said this is common practice when traveling on other people’s money.

“I think when it comes to spending public funds, the name of the game should always be absolute transparency,” Morrell said.

The Ordinance requires all travel details to be available within three working days and all receipts to be available within 14 days of return. He said this helps to gain public trust.

“The goal must always be to do it in the most economical and efficient way. Business travel is not vacation travel,” added Morrell.

Both Council President Helena Moreno and Councilwoman Lesli Harris signed Morrell’s ordinance, saying this action was long overdue.

“I think it’s important to realize what the benefits of these particular trips are, whether it’s a particular event, whether it’s a particular conference. What’s the value of that that are you coming back? said Moreno.

“As someone who has worked in the private sector for many years, in a professional way, everything, everything you do has to be considered,” Harris said.

An investigation by Mike Perlstein found that Mayor Cantrell took trips this summer to France and Switzerland to the so-called sister cities. Her airfare alone was over $9,800 one way. He had planned to go to Singapore, but later canceled his trip after public pressure to deal with rising crime and a shrinking police force.

“I was going because the city of New Orleans is on the front lines of climate change. We are being looked at for innovation, because we are doing the work in our city, and world leaders are asking me to be there, but to want to ensure that our police officers be loved and respected and hear directly from me.” Mayor Cantrell said on July 29.

A public commenter at the council meeting wants the mayor to forgo expensive travel and use Zoom to conduct business outside the city.

“This is the system our mayoress should use if she has any regard for the public money being used. No, he is using it to his advantage”, he commented on the podium.

Councilman Eugene Green closed the discussion by asking that in the near future the debate continue, this time proposing a punishment if the rules are not followed.

“What penalties are in place if you don’t comply,” Green said.

The legislation initially stated it would limit “non-essential” travel expenses for elected city officials to $1,000 per trip, but that was removed earlier.

Response from Mayor Cantrell’s office:

“Today’s vote duplicates many of the policies and practices already in place regarding elected officials’ travel. As this city’s chief ambassador, the mayor will continue to promote New Orleans, our history and our culture and will make the necessary connections not only to attract more visitors, but also to drive more economic investment in our city.”

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