Zurik questions Mayor Cantrell on use of city-owned apartment

Zurik questions Cantrell about use of city-owned apartment
Zurik questions Cantrell about use of city-owned apartment
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 12:44 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In a press conference Wednesday morning (Nov. 16), New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell defended her use of the city-owned Upper Pontalba Apartment when questioned about a months-long investigation into possible misuse of city resources and money.

Our investigation found a member of her security team, NOPD officer Jeffrey Vappie, billed the city for hours he spent during the workday with Cantrell inside the city-owned apartment.

Vappie has since been reassigned and is now the subject of an investigation by the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau.

The city’s inspector general also launched an investigation into whether Cantrell used the apartment for personal use, and sources tell Fox 8 that the investigation could expand into Vappie’s time at the apartment as well.

“Mayor Cantrell, you say you’re working 24/7 and the records show that you spend a lot of time with an officer,” Fox 8 investigative reporter Lee Zurik asked. “The city has crime and infrastructure issues. You spent nearly 20% of the year out of town or out of the country with an officer. Is any of that appropriate?”

“So Mr. Zurik, I’m glad you’re here,” Mayor Cantrell replied. “It kind of freaks me out to see you because you have been very inappropriate in my opinion. But relative to your accusations, none of them add up at all.”

“But in regards to my work in the city of New Orleans, it’s really been unmatched,” she continued. “I can point to the results on the ground. The budget hearings that are underway right now speak to my work that my administration and team have done and continue to do for the city of New Orleans relative to public safety, relative to housing, relative to infrastructure and I can literally go on and on.”

“But what you will not challenge me on are the results of administration and the priorities that we have set for this city,” Mayor Cantrell continued. “In fact, the city of New Orleans has been included in the top 10 cities, fastest growing cities in the U.S. because we are doing the work. And based on the budget that’s going on right now, it speaks to my priorities even touted in the article in terms of where we need to focus so we become better and stronger than city has ever been before. We are on a trajectory and the best is yet to come. Thank you so much.”

The mayor’s team then acknowledged another reporter in attendance, not allowing Zurik to ask a follow-up question.

“Why don’t I get a follow-up? Everyone else gets a follow-up question,” Zurik asked.

“Sir, you’re the one who touts having over 680 hours of me, filming me, at an apartment I have, sir, one - the authority to use in my capacity as mayor in the city of New Orleans. So sir, you have done more than any reporter in this room that has been, in my opinion, in violation of me as a human being. Thank you very much.”

OUTSIDE THE OFFICE

Cantrell’s calendar raises more questions about time spent inside Upper Pontalba apartment

Inspector General launches investigation into Cantrell’s use of city-owned apartment

NOPD investigating officer frequently inside Cantrell’s city-owned apartment

Mayor Cantrell possibly violating policy using city-owned apartment for personal use

Fox 8 obtained its video from a French Market Corporation camera outside the door to the apartment through a public records request.

We looked through more than 630 hours of that video.

Cantrell’s campaign manager sent questions about the journalistic ethics of our investigation to the Society of Professional Journalists, who said the reporting was “appropriate and journalistically ethical.”

When asked about Officer Vappie and the time he spent on the clock and with the mayor at the apartment, Cantrell said she was completely confident in the PIB’s investigation.

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