Is LaToya Cantrell’s Credit Card Problem Going To Affect The New Orleans Mayor’s Race?

We can’t say whether this is a major issue – after all, if New Orleans voters had a history of punishing crooked politicians New Orleans would hardly have the political history it has. But the whole narrative of this race, at least from LaToya Cantrell’s camp, was that Desiree Charbonnet was shady, and that all the people surrounding her were shady.

Well, OK. But having a City of New Orleans credit card as a councilwoman, and racking up thousands of dollars in personal expenses on it that you haven’t reimbursed doesn’t quite make you The Honest One, does it?

An anonymous criminal complaint accusing New Orleans mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell of inappropriately using her city credit card to spend taxpayer dollars on personal and campaign expenses has been sent to Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office to investigate, according to Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office.

The complaint was formally lodged earlier this week with Cannizzaro, a vocal critic of Cantrell who has publicly endorsed her opponent, former judge Desiree Charbonnet, in the Nov. 18 runoff for mayor.

“While we find no reason to recuse this office, the heightened political season and the desire to avoid even the appearance of impropriety compels the District Attorney’s office to request the assistance,” first assistant district attorney Graymond Martin wrote in a letter to Landry’s office, sent Thursday (Oct. 26). The letter was first reported by WWL-TV.

The complaint appears to be based on records Charbonnet’s campaign recently provided to multiple media outlets. | The Times-Picayune reporters are in the process of independently verifying the records, which allege improper use of Cantrell city’s credit card related to thousands of dollars of charges over the past five years.

So far, we’d give Cantrell a C-plus, and that’s being generous, for handling the credit card explosion. She went on the radio Thursday and denied she used the card for anything other than city expenses. But…

“Definitely city business, but sometimes there are gray areas,” she said, noting that she reimbursed the city for some expenses in an effort “to go above and beyond.”

Again, if corruption was a deal-breaker for New Orleans voters Cantrell would be screwed because of this. But corruption as a deal-breaker would be something new.

Still, Charbonnet’s camp has to be snickering. They’ve now managed to knock out one of the key points in Cantrell’s value proposition. This might well matter, because the two candidates are largely fighting over the votes of third-place finisher Michael Bagneris – and Bagneris endorsed Cantrell on Friday, citing his impression that Charbonnet’s inner circle is full of crooks as his reason. Now that she can point to Cantrell’s issue as evidence there is no holier-than-thou in the race those votes could be pulled even without Bagneris’ support.

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