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No recusal of local judges in Cantrell credit card probe, retired judge rules

5th March 2018   ·   0 Comments

A court ruling will allow local judges to take on the investigation of Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell’s city credit card use, according to Times-Picayune.

Freddie Pitcher Jr., a retired East Baton Rouge Parish judge and the former chancellor of the Southern University Law Center, ruled late last month that Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judges do not have to recuse themselves from the state Attorney General’s Office probe of Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell’s use of a city-issued credit card.

State Attorney General Jeff Landry had sought to move the probe of Cantrell’s credit card use outside of Orleans Parish, citing a conflict of interest because the City of New Orleans determines the budget of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court and because Mayor-elect Cantrell’s father-in-law is New Orleans Magistrate Harry Cantrell.

Earlier this year, the Louisiana Supreme Court decided to appoint an ad hoc judge to rule on whether the Orleans Parish judges should be forced to recuse themselves from the case.

That decision fell to Freddie Pitcher Jr., who ruled February 23 that local judges don’t need to recuse themselves.

Pitcher reportedly didn’t elaborate much on his ruling, only saying that the State Attorney General’s Office didn’t meet the burden of proof in the case.

Billy Gibbens, Cantrell’s attorney, confirmed Pitcher’s ruling and said the judge might provide additional details about the case when he submits a written ruling.

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office is reportedly also looking into Cantrell’s use of the city-issued credit card.

Public records obtained by FOX 8 News show questionable purchases on the credit card include drinks, turkeys, meals and feminine products.

District B Councilwoman Cantrell paid back more than $4,000 to the City of New Orleans just days before she qualified to run for mayor.

State AG Jeff Landry said he would not appeal the February 23 ruling.

“Our goal was to have a neutral and detached magistrate hear this motion to recuse,” Landry said. “The Supreme Court agreed and today we had our day in court. The court has decided that Judge White can hear the defense’s motion to quash the subpoenas. We look forward to having that matter heard and moving forward.”

In other news about Mayor-elect Cantrell, the first female mayor of New Orleans has announced an addition to her transition team.

According to a news release issued by Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell’s transition team, Mason Harrison has been named Cantrell’s Communications Director for her transition team.

“Today I am pleased to welcome Mason to a growing team of dedicated professionals eager to expand on the foundation we laid at the outset of this transition process,” Cantrell said. “He brings strategic passion and enthusiasm to the field of political communications and we are excited to have him directing our efforts as we approach Inauguration Day.”

Prior to joining the team, Harrison was the interim senior communications and marketing manager for the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau. He also served as communications director for Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse and for the District B office of Councilmember Cantrell.

This article originally published in the March 5, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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