New Orleans mayor speaks on having affair with member of security team

Francis Akhalbey January 24, 2023
Mayor LaToya Cantrell addressed affair allegations -- Photo Credit: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

The Mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, on Wednesday addressed allegations in a divorce petition that claims she had an affair with a police officer assigned to her security detail. In a text message to nola.com, Cantrell labeled the allegations as sexist and baseless. 

The New Orleans police officer at the center of the alleged affair was identified as Jeffrey Vappie. The officer’s wife is said to have made the allegations in a divorce petition she filed this month. Cantrell, who is married, addressed the allegations a day after news about the divorce petition broke.

“By the time I complete my tenure as mayor I would have slept with half of the City of New Orleans based on false accusations that come my way sometimes daily,” Cantrell said in the text message. “This is only one of them.”

The mayor also added that if she was a man, “you would NOT be texting me about this bull***t.” The petition alleges that Cantrell [identified as Mrs. L.C.] and Vappie started an “ongoing sexual relationship” in May 2021. The petition also mentioned 10 dates where the mayor and the police officer were together. And though Vappie is said to have clocked in on about seven of those days, the petition did not state if those visits happened during working hours, nola.com reported.

Vappie’s wife claims her husband and the mayor “engaged in a sexual relationship” on August 2, 2022, and August 9, 2022. The petition also made mention of other dates. Besides the visits, Vappie – since last year – also accompanied Cantrell on multiple out-of-state trips. Those trips were funded by the taxpayer.

If it is determined that the pair had an affair during working hours, the case will reportedly pose many ethical and legal questions for an incident of such nature in New Orleans as no mayor of recent memory has made the news for having an affair. 

It also cannot be established if the City Hall would have the mandate to ascertain if Cantrell flouted city policies that prevent favoritism or behavior that would lead to “neglect or inattention” to one’s work. In December 2021, Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño introduced a policy that bars city employees from sexually harassing their colleagues. And though the policy does not clearly prohibit sexual relationships between supervisors and subordinates, it outlines that “quid pro quo” sexual harassment happens “when the rejection of sexual advances would result in adverse decisions affecting an employee’s job status”, nola.com reported.

Goyeneche, who is the president of the watchdog Metropolitan Crime Commission, told the news outlet that Vappie would have flouted multiple NOPD policies if he had an affair during working hours. Goyeneche also said Vappie could be criminally charged if he clocked in for time he did not spend on duty as security. 

The NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau is currently investigating Vappie to ascertain if he violated department policy with the overtime that he previously reported. The overtime period also included when he was part of Cantrell’s security detail.

Vappie has also been reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation.

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