Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell sought Saturday to distance herself from former state lawmaker Derrick Shepherd and said the ex-con won’t play a role in her administration.
She took the position after several members of the New Orleans legislative delegation raised questions about his presence at a meeting she held with legislators earlier in the week.
“I want to make it clear that Derrick Shepherd did not accompany me to that meeting nor was he invited to participate,” Cantrell said in a news release sent out Saturday night, after The New Orleans Advocate reported on Shepherd’s involvement in the meeting.
“His presence at the meeting was solely of his own accord. Shepherd does not now nor will he ever have any role in my transition or in my future administration,” Cantrell added.
Cantrell’s team had previously sought to downplay or dodge questions about any connections with Shepherd, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering while a state senator and has faced multiple accusations of domestic violence.
However, Saturday's statement was the first time the Cantrell team directly answered a question about whether Shepherd might be in line for a role in the upcoming administration, a rumor that has been spreading in political circles over the past week.
Cantrell’s transition team was asked multiple times over several days about those rumors. The transition was also specifically asked to explain Shepherd’s presence at the meeting and was given multiple opportunities to say that he would not be playing a role in the administration.
In response to those questions, a spokesman for the transition would say only that no hiring decisions had yet been made. He did not directly address Shepherd’s presence at the meeting.
Lawmakers, most of whom asked not to be named, have told The New Orleans Advocate that Shepherd was at the meeting and appeared to be there at Cantrell’s invitation.
That Shepherd would be at the meeting was shocking to some lawmakers.
Shepherd, once seen as an up-and-coming political star, resigned his state Senate seat and pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit bribery in late 2008. In addition to those charges, he has faced multiple allegations of domestic violence from at least two women.
When asked before Saturday about whether he would be playing a role in Cantrell’s administration after she takes office in May, Shepherd responded, “I defer all question to Madam Mayor-elect.”
In the news release sent out Saturday night, Cantrell’s team sought to reassure the public.
“The voters of our city have placed their trust in me, and I want to assure you that I will honor that trust both in my transition and upcoming administration,” Cantrell said.
The statement was issued through Karen Carvin Shachat, who was a consultant to Cantrell's mayoral campaign.