New Orleans City Council asked to investigate reports of Mayor LaToya Cantrell living rent-free in Pontalba Building

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The Metropolitan Crime Commission has requested that the New Orleans City Council initiate an investigation into Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s use of an apartment in the Pontalba Building, where she has allegedly lived rent-free since January.

In a Sept. 29 letter to the City Council, the MCC said it has received credible information that Cantrell has been inhabiting and/or personally using apartment 530B of the Upper Pontalba Building, located near the intersection of Saint Peter and Chartres streets.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment is owned by the city but managed by the French Market Corporation, and is listed with a fair market rent of $2,991 per month, according to the MCC.

“Sources contend that Mayor Cantrell put up a privacy screen on the balcony, which obstructs her balcony from the view of other residents,” the MCC said. “In addition, our sources report seeing delivery packages addressed to LaToya Cantrell in the Upper Pontalba Building mailroom.”

The MCC said sources have reportedly observed Cantrell entering or exiting the apartment’s door along the 500 block of Saint Peter Street, and watching her being picked up and dropped off by a black Chevrolet Suburban, which records show is a leased city vehicle.

Observers said the Suburban was seen parked on Chartres or Saint Peter streets, near the Upper Pontalba Apartments or the Cabildo, and is typically parked in no parking zones, according to the MCC.

In an interview with WWL, Cantrell spokesman Gregory Joseph defended the practice and said it’s allowed under an agreement the city has with the French market Corporation.

The apartment is part of the Pontalba Buildings that occupy both sides of Jackson Square and often cited as among the oldest continuously-rented apartments in the U.S. The four-story buildings extend one entire block along Saint Peter and Saint Ann streets, and were built between 1849 and 1851 by Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba, who was a wealthy New Orleans-born Creole aristocrat.

The MCC requested that the City Council independently determine if Cantrell has been inhabiting the apartment and whether any rules were broken.

“If your investigation confirms her person use of this unit, we request the City Council ascertain whether Mayor Cantrell is complying with city policy and/or state law by inhabiting this city-owned property without paying rent or being taxed for the fair market value use of this unit,” the MCC said.

Read the letter below: