City council adopts new travel rules after mayor’s trips abroad

The order requires full travel details to be made available within three working days.

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

Council members say it’s a step to make city officials more transparent on their travels.

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

Council Deputy Chairman JP Morrell said it was common practice when traveling with other people’s money.

“I think when you’re talking about spending public funds, the name of the game should always be absolute transparency,” Morrell said.

The order requires that all travel details be available within three working days and that all receipts be available within 14 days of return. He said it helps gain public trust.

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

Council Speaker Helena Moreno and Councilwomen Lesli Harris both signed Morrell’s order, saying the action was long overdue.

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

“As someone who has worked in the private sector for many years, professionally, everything, everything you do has to be accounted for,” Harris said.

An investigation by Mike Perlstein revealed that Mayor Cantrell had made trips this summer to France and Switzerland to so-called sister cities. His airfare alone was over $9,800 for one trip. She was due to travel to Singapore, but later canceled her trip after public pressure to deal with escalating crime and dwindling police forces.

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

A public commentator at the council meeting wants the mayor to forgo expensive travel and use Zoom to conduct out-of-town activities.

“This is the system our mayor should be using if it takes public money into account. No, she uses it to her 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 put in place if you don’t follow that,” Green said.

The legislation originally said it would cap “non-essential” travel expenses for city officials at $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 set out regarding the travel of elected officials. As this city’s chief ambassador, the Mayor will continue to promote New Orleans, our history and our culture, and make the necessary connections not only to attract more visitors, but also to generate more economic investment in our town.

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