CLEVELAND (WJW) — The Fox 8 I-Team has obtained more travel records showing where Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb has gone while taking Cleveland Police officers with him for protection.
The I-Team first exposed the Mayor’s frequent travel out of town last summer. It was 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 on City Design. Plus, he 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 records just released refer to other trips to D.C. in December and New York last July.
The I-Team requested many of these records months ago, but City Hall has just provided them now. We are taking a closer look at them.
Some taxpayers feel forgotten. Ed McDonald puts videos online of crumbling buildings while some Cleveland streets rage with violent crime.
“I see it as a huge slap in the face in our community,” McDonald said, reacting to the mayor’s travel. “My concern, however, is the neighborhoods. Especially the east side neighborhoods. We have buildings crumbling. We have dangerous structures.”
In 2022 the I-Team collected travel bills from the Mayor’s Office through public records looking into how much taxpayer money is getting spent.
City records show that in 2022, Mayor Bibb also flew to five Conferences for Mayors. He went to Miami, Austin, Reno, and, twice more, to D.C. We also found he didn’t travel alone.
On four trips, he took his Chief Government Affairs Officer, and on one, his Chief Strategy Officer. That, in addition to his security detail.
At a news conference last year, we asked the Mayor, “How do you justify taking two and 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 police due to short staffing?”
He responded by saying, “Due to security concerns, I’m not going to comment on my security detail.”
Here’s something else we found when the mayor leaves his office and goes out of town. Time records show, sometimes, officers on his security detail work a lot of overtime on those trips.
However, the City has not released records showing what those officers do, considering that a security risk.
The I-Team contacted City Council President Blaine Griffin for comment about the mayor’s travel and he said, “that’s between him and the voters.”
We also shared our findings with Catherine Turcer, Executive Director of the government watchdog group called Common Cause.
She told us, a Mayor traveling can be a good thing, but asking how many people are going with him and why are fair questions.
“We should look at how money is being spent,” Turcer said.
Some of the records the I-Team received from City officials show the Mayor’s security detail has even rented vehicles for weekend conferences. Sometimes the security team has spent more than $1,000 on car rentals for a weekend.
“We want to make sure that the City’s money is appropriately spent,” Turcer said. “And, that does mean, you know, economizing here and there.”
The I-Team has asked repeatedly to sit down and talk to the Mayor about his travel, but he’s never done it. We’ve also asked again to talk to him after getting the new records.
For one story, last year, the Mayor’s Office released a statement, saying, “For any mayoral travel, the Department of Public Safety and the security team evaluate the location, itinerary, and any public engagements to assess risk and create a comprehensive security plan for the trip. Potential threats to public officials’ safety are always evolving and our skilled team works to prevent incidents before they occur, 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 big city mayor’s offices. Public figures across the U.S. are facing escalating harassment and threats of violence at a time of deep political divisions and intensified public debate, as recently reported in the Wall Street Journal. This is an unfortunate national trend.
Despite this, Mayor Bibb has 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 crucial to boosting the city’s reputation and subsequently expanding its economy. For the first time in decades, Cleveland has an active leadership role in the U.S. Conference of Mayors—participating in national urban policy discussions on economic development, immigration, climate change and infrastructure. The exposure also earned us selection by the Putting Assets to Work Incubator headed by the Government Finance Officers Association, the Honeywell Smart Cities Accelerator program and the U.S. Mayors’ Institute on City 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 this requires collaboration and getting outside of City Hall to build strategic relationships and bring much-needed resources back to the residents that we serve. The Bibb administration unequivocally believes that the investment we make in this work is an investment in the future of Cleveland. “
Meanwhile, in recent months, the I-Team checked with officials in Columbus, Akron and other cities. Spokespeople there tell us the mayors in those cities do travel out of town for conferences and more, but they do not take police officers with them on the trips.