Democratic New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is being criticized for spending more than $50,000 in taxpayer money on security services and another $175,000 in campaign funds on a personal stylist and shopper.
According to WWL-TV, at least two stores in the New Orleans area have received subpoenas from a federal grand jury and have been questioned by the FBI about purchases made by Cantrell’s personal shopper, Tanya Blunt-Haynes.
Cantrell’s communications director, Gregory Joseph, told NOLA.com, “Our office has not received nor has any knowledge of a federal investigation into Mayor Cantrell. However, in the event that this changes, our office will, as always, fully cooperate with any and all agency inquiries.”
Cantrell’s campaign manager would not comment on the matter, the news outlet reported.
This controversy comes one month after Cantrell came under fire for using taxpayer money to purchase first-class plane tickets to Europe in January 2021. The mayor, who earns $188,000 annually, initially refused to reimburse the city for the $29,000 upgrade but eventually caved.
She claimed that her expensive travel accommodations were “a matter of safety, not of luxury.”
“Anyone who wants to question how I protect myself just doesn’t understand the world Black women walk in,” Cantrell stated.
Cantrell, who had not hired security services from 2019 to the beginning of 2021, is stirring up controversy for recently spending more than $50,000 this year on bodyguard services only after bringing Officer Jeffrey Vappie onto her executive protection team in May 2021.
According to WVUE-DT, five months after hiring Vappie, Cantrell brought an officer with her for the first time on a trip to Scotland. For another trip, Cantrell brought Vappie as her security to Los Angeles, where the two attended a fundraising dinner with Brad Pitt at a Beverly Hills mansion.
“The timeline doesn’t really make any sense,” political analyst Robert Collins told WVUE-DT. “So, the taxpayers are going to ask, ‘OK, well, if you really need protection, why didn’t you have protection on the earlier trips? Why don’t you have protection when you’re walking by yourself in the French Quarter? Why are you selectively choosing when to have a protective detail and when not to have a protective detail?'”