Lee Zurik and Dannah Sauer/ Fox 8/ April 15,2024

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – The head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, Rafael Goyeneche, is calling on the New Orleans Police Department to launch an internal investigation into a meal shared between Mayor LaToya Cantrell and a member of her executive protection team, Officer Jeffrey Vappie.

Photos obtained by the MCC show the two dining at a restaurant in the French Quarter on Sunday, April 7, around 5:45 p.m. There are two wine glasses on their table.The MCC is asking for the PIB to verify if Officer Vappie was on duty at the time the photos were taken, if he had permission from his supervisor to dine with the mayor, if he consumed alcohol, and who paid for the meal.(Metropolitan Crime Commission photo)

Goyeneche says Vappie was reportedly on duty that weekend, but it is unclear if he was performing any executive protection duties or whether he consumed alcohol during the meal.

“If it’s on-duty or off-duty — either way you slice it — I believe it’s a violation of departmental rules, policies and protocols,” Goyeneche said. “So, if he’s off duty, and he’s dining with the mayor, that would suggest that they’re in a social relationship. And if they are in a social relationship, I don’t see how he can remain on the executive protection unit team any longer.

“If he is on duty at that time, then he has to abide by the protocols for providing for the mayor’s safety, and the new superintendent indicated that they were going to revise all those protocols.”

In a letter addressed to Deputy Supt. Keith Sanchez of the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau, the MCC asked to determine whether Vappie’s actions aligned with NOPD protocols and policies on moral conduct, professional conduct and performance of duty.

The MCC asked for five specific questions to be addressed and for the receipt of the meal to be obtained:

  1. Was it consistent with Executive Protection Unit training and protocols for Officer Vappie to dine with his protectee on the balcony of a restaurant?
  2. Was Officer Vappie on duty at the time the picture was taken on April 7th?
  3. If so, did Officer Vappie have permission from his supervisor to dine at Tableau with Mayor Cantrell?
  4. Did Officer Vappie consume alcohol while at Tableau on April 7th?
  5. Who paid for the meal?

Cantrell and Vappie each previously denied any relationship beyond protector and protectee, following a series of Fox 8 investigations that found the pair spent hours together inside a city-owned apartment in the French Quarter.

Both Cantrell and Vappie are currently at the center of an FBI investigation, and sources tell Fox 8 that investigators have asked questions about the pair’s relationship and the time they spent inside the apartment.

Dillard University political analyst Dr. Robert Collins calls the photo a distraction for City Hall and says the optics aren’t good.

“Both the mayor and Officer Vappie know that they’re under federal investigation right now,” Collins said. “So, they have to know that anytime they go in public together in a public restaurant like this, and they’re seen smiling and laughing, that’s going to draw eyes. That’s going to draw attention. That’s going to draw questions.”

Fox 8 reached out to both the NOPD and Mayor Cantrell’s office for comment on the Metropolitan Crime Commission’s letter, but neither responded.

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