Audit: Cantrell's Council Spending In Line With Colleagues'


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A state Legislative Auditor's report says New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell's use of a city-issued credit card when she was on the City Council wasn't out of line with her fellow council members' practices.

An early copy of the audit was obtained by The New Orleans Advocate. The newspaper reported Thursday that the audit found sloppy bookkeeping and questionable purchases had been widespread among council members.

Supporters of Cantrell's opponent in last year's election said her spending was improper. The allegations led to a still-unresolved state attorney general investigation.

Cantrell won the election despite the controversy.

The audit includes a statement from Cantrell that the findings support her assertion that her credit card use was consistent with then-established council policies. Council members this year tightened policies on city-issued credit cards.

The audit does not rule out the possibility of a criminal prosecution, noting that various categories of purchases by council members "may have violated the Louisiana Constitution and state law," a common finding in reports from the Legislative Auditor's Office, according to The Advocate.

But the report largely focuses its criticism on the weak oversight of the council's credit card usage and the frequency with which the body as a whole ignored policies requiring receipts and documentation showing why a particular purchase was made.

A chief line of attack from Desiree Charbonnet's camp — that Cantrell's decision to reimburse $9,725 worth of charges amounted to an admission of guilt — is barely mentioned in the report. Cantrell defeated Charbonnet in the 2017 mayor's race, winning 60 percent of the vote.

Cantrell's reimbursements occurred before the campaign and before her credit card spending was made a public issue. She has argued the repayments were an attempt to ensure no public money was spent on personal expenses.

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