CLEVELAND (WJW) — The Fox 8 I-Team has obtained more travel records showing where Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb went while taking Cleveland Police officers with him for protection.
The I-Team first revealed the mayor’s frequent out-of-town trips last summer. It has been revealed that he travels with two and even three police officers with him for “security and escort services”.
New records released reveal trips to Chicago in October for the Mayor’s Institute for Urban Design. He also went to Miami in September for the Smart City Expo. Weeks later, he went to Washington, D.C., for a Congressional Black Caucus function.
More just-posted entries refer to other trips to DC in December and New York last July.
The I-Team requested many of those records months ago, but City Hall just now provided them. We take a closer look at them.
Some taxpayers feel forgotten. Ed McDonald posts videos online of collapsing buildings as some Cleveland streets rage with violent crime.
“I see it as a huge slap in the face to our community,” McDonald said, reacting to the mayor’s trip. “However, my concern is the neighborhoods. Especially in the eastern districts. We have buildings that are collapsing. We have dangerous structures.
In 2022, the I-Team collected travel bills from City Hall through public records to verify how much taxpayer money was being spent.
City records show that in 2022, Mayor Bibb also flew to five mayoral conferences. He went to Miami, Austin, Reno and two more times in DC. We also discovered that he was not traveling alone.
He took his chief government affairs officer on four trips and his chief strategy officer on one. This, in addition to its security.
At a press conference last year, we asked the mayor, “How do you justify taking two or three police officers with you to out-of-town conferences for your personal protection at a time when citizens are waiting and waiting here in Cleveland for understaffed police?”
He responded by saying: “For security reasons, I will not comment on the details of my security.”
Here’s another thing we found when the mayor leaves his office and goes out of town. Records show that his security officers sometimes worked extensive overtime on these trips.
However, the city has not released recordings showing what those employees were doing, deeming it a security risk.
The I-Team reached out to City Council President Blaine Griffin for comment on the mayor’s trip, and he said “that’s between him and the constituents.”
We also shared our findings with Catherine Thurser, executive director of a government watchdog group called Common Cause.
She told us that a mayor traveling might be a good thing, but the question of how many people will travel with him and why are fair questions.
“We need to look at how the money is being spent,” Thurser said.
Some of the records obtained by the I-Team from city officials show that the mayor’s bodyguards even rented vehicles for weekend conferences. At times, the security team has spent more than $1,000 on rental cars for a weekend.
“We want to make sure the city’s money is being spent properly,” Thurser said. “And that means, you know, savings here and there.”
The I-Team repeatedly asked to sit down and talk with the mayor about his trip, but he never did. We also asked to speak to him again after receiving the new records.
For a story last year, City Hall released a statement saying, “For each mayoral trip, the public safety department and security team evaluate the location, route and all public engagements to assess the risk and create a comprehensive security plan for the trip. Potential threats to the safety of government employees are constantly evolving, and our skilled team works to prevent incidents before they happen, which sometimes requires advanced work. This is not unique to the city of Cleveland. Our policies are very much in line with those of other large city halls. Public figures in the US are facing escalating harassment and threats of violence at a time of deep political divisions and heightened public debate, as recently reported in the Wall Street Journal. This is an unpleasant national trend.
However, Mayor Bibb successfully brought Cleveland back into the national conversation; ensuring our city has a seat at the table where decisions are made. This work is already bearing fruit for Cleveland and is critical to enhancing the city’s reputation and subsequently expanding its economy. For the first time in decades, Cleveland has an active leadership role in the US Conference of Mayors – participating in national urban policy discussions on economic development, immigration, climate change and infrastructure. The exhibit also earned us selection from the Putting Assets to Work Incubator led by the Government Finance Officers Association, the Honeywell Smart Cities Accelerator program, and the US Mayors Institute for Urban Design, just to name a few.
Big city mayors are leading the way on all the big issues facing our nation today—from public safety to abortion to pandemic recovery efforts—and that requires collaboration and going outside of City Hall to build strategic relationships and give back much needed resources to the residents we serve. The Bibb administration believes unequivocally that the investment we are making in this work is an investment in Cleveland’s future. “
Meanwhile, the I-Team checked with officials in Columbus, Akron and other cities in recent months. Spokespeople there tell us that the mayors in those cities do travel out of town for conferences and such, but don’t take police officers with them on the trips.