The state legislative auditor is looking into how New Orleans City Council members use their taxpayer-funded credit cards — a move apparently prompted by the recent controversy over spending by Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell.
Auditor Daryl Purpera requested records related to the cards, including receipts and card statements, in a letter to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office Monday.
Landrieu spokesman Tyronne Walker said the administration plans to comply with the request.
Purpera has asked that the records be provided by Nov. 17, the day before voters choose either Cantrell or her runoff opponent, Desiree Charbonnet, as the city's next mayor. That timeline means there is little chance an investigation would be completed before the election.
Charbonnet criticized Cantrell last month for using her credit card to pay for at least $8,950 in personal or political expenses which Cantrell later reimbursed, though sometimes months or even years later.
But the political feud came with wider questions about the council's spending. Council members are some of the last city officials who still have their own credit cards. Landrieu's administration has tried to crack down on their use by other city officials.
The City Council is not subject to the mayor’s rules, and its members largely decide for themselves what qualifies as a public expense. They are not required to justify the expenses on their cards, which are paid for out of each member’s operating budget.
And while the council’s card policy does require its members to use the card only for legitimate city business, it’s not uncommon for members to reimburse the city for certain expenses after the fact, interim Council Chief of Staff David Gavlinski has said.
That policy is one of the documents Purpera has requested. State law prohibits using public money for personal or campaign expenses.
A spokeswoman for Purpera’s office would not comment on the matter other than to confirm that the letter was sent.
Purpera has also requested monthly statements for all council members’ credit cards, records of reimbursements members made to the city and any documentation to back those up, and copies of internal investigations related to City Council credit card use.