On March 16, 2023, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a letter concerning the Mayor’s use of a second-floor apartment unit (Mayor’s Apartment) in the Upper Pontalba Building, which is owned by the City of New Orleans (City). The letter asserted that because the French Market Corporation (FMC) does not collect fair market value rent from the current usage of the Mayor’s Apartment, this arrangement, in the case of personal use by the Mayor, gives the appearance of a donation of public property in possible violation of the Louisiana Constitution. Additionally, the Mayor’s personal use of the apartment is a possible grant of compensation in addition to the salary of the Mayor authorized by City Code and for which the City may not be making the required payroll deductions.
In light of recent events regarding possible overnight stays at the Mayor’s Apartment, the OIG requests that the City Council re-examine the ordinance passed in April 2023. As written, the ordinance does not appear to ensure that the City receives fair market value from the usage of the Mayor’s Apartment. Additionally, the ordinance lacks an enforceable definition of what qualifies as an “overnight stay”.