Cantrell’s image consultant followed the rules, lawyer says

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Speaking on behalf of Tanya Blunt Haynes, her lawyer said she was aware her consulting fees from Cantrell’s campaign were “solely for her image consulting work”.

NEW ORLEANS — A lawyer for Mayor’s image consultant LaToya Cantrell says the mayor reimbursed his client for high-end clothes she bought for Cantrell at a local boutique — purchases that are now the subject of litigation. a federal criminal investigation.

Attorney Clarence Roby Jr. declined to discuss details of stylist Tanya Blunt Haynes’ arrangement with the mayor or the federal investigation, though he said Haynes “was not informed that she was a target.”

Speaking for the first time on behalf of Haynes, Roby said she knew her monthly consulting fee from Cantrell’s campaign was ‘only for her image consulting work’, not for buying clothes .

In 2021, Haynes’ consulting fee was $6,000 per month, according to Cantrell’s campaign finance reports.

“The campaign knew what the money would be used for,” Roby said. “They paid her for a consultation.”

Roby said Cantrell herself reimbursed Haynes for all clothing purchased on her behalf.

“None of the refunds were made from campaign funds or any other third parties,” Roby said.

Cantrell stays mum

Cantrell, meanwhile, has yet to address the federal investigation into Haynes’ purchases.

The mayor brushed off a reporter’s questions about the arrangement as she left the stage of a press conference at Caesars Superdome to promote Saturday’s Bayou Classic football game.

“I don’t answer questions like that. This is crazy,” Cantrell replied.

His administration referred a series of questions posed by The Times-Picayune about the purchases and the investigation to the mayor’s campaign organization, which declined to comment.

Clothing stores received subpoenas

At least two stores in the area, including Ballin’s Ltd. in New Orleans, have received federal grand jury subpoenas since August, and FBI agents have questioned employees about purchases made by Haynes, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Laura Rodrigue, an attorney for Ballin’s — where Haynes often bought outfits for the mayor — said last week the owners were cooperating with federal investigators. Rodrigue is a longtime critic of Cantrell and helped collect signatures to recall Cantrell from duty.

Ballin’s wasn’t the only outlet Haynes bought clothes for the mayor to wear, according to a businessman.

Haynes paid hundreds of dollars in cash for the white suit Cantrell wore as grand marshal for the Treme Sidewalk Steppers’ second line parade in February, said Brad Lockett, who tailored the outfit.

Lockett said making the suit was his only interaction with the mayor, who had a fitting with him listed on his official schedule. Lockett said he was not contacted by federal investigators.

Roby said he was unaware of the specific purchase at Lockett’s store, but said Haynes bought clothes for the mayor and paid for it ‘as any personal shopper would “.

Haynes “was told the clothes couldn’t be paid for from consulting fees” and followed that edict, Roby said.

Lawyer says client knew what was allowed

Roby said some of the clothes Haynes bought for Cantrell were never worn by the mayor, but Haynes was reimbursed for the items Cantrell eventually wore.

As far as he knows, Roby said, no third parties fund the mayor’s wardrobe.

“For those clothes she bought for the mayor, the mayor reimbursed her,” Roby said.

Jimmy Burland, a Baton Rouge attorney who compiles campaign finance reports for Cantrell, told WWL-TV last week that he never reviewed Haynes’ expenses, but simply recorded the payments the campaign made. had provided and filed the reports.

“As far as what she got from these counseling services, I can’t tell you, because that’s all I know,” he said. “I don’t question the expenses unless I’m asked about them.”

Roby said Haynes had other clients and some of the purchases in question may have included clothes she ended up keeping for herself.

Roby said purchases Haynes made at another business, BC Kitchen and Bath in Metairie – which had received a grand jury subpoena – were unrelated to his work for Cantrell.

“It had nothing to do with the mayor,” Roby said.

He declined to speculate on federal investigators’ interest in Haynes’ purchases there. The subpoena specifically requests records of a $2,000 charge to a JP Morgan Chase account in November 2020.

Since late 2017, Cantrell’s campaign has paid Haynes and his company, Jolie Image Consulting, at least $231,000, records show. Those payments have generally increased over time, reaching $6,000 per month in 2021, records show.

Cantrell has yet to file a campaign finance report in 2022. Among the questions his campaign has declined to answer is whether the mayor has continued to use campaign funds to pay Haynes since Cantrell’s re-election at the end of 2021.

It is unclear whether Cantrell has hired an attorney in response to the federal investigation. Attorney Billy Gibbens, who represented Cantrell when his city council’s credit card spending was attacked in 2017, said the mayor had not been in contact with him about the current FBI investigation.

Haynes’ name appeared frequently on the mayor’s official calendar, as late as late March, when the calendar indicated she would be grooming the mayor for a United Negro College Fund ball.

Roby suggested that the consultation arrangement be suspended for the time being.

“I have advised (Haynes) on the basis of the investigation to cease any future engagement until at least the dust has settled and there is some determination to ensure that she does not subject to any type of exposure,” Roby said.

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