CLEVELAND — Newly-released records show the growing tab taxpayers paid for out-of-state travel for Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and his entourage in Bibb’s first year in office.
It took months of requests and the threat of legal action by a News 5 attorney, but the city finally released the travel records and expense reports detailing 14 trips to cities across the United States, costing taxpayers nearly $70,000 in 2022.
And that does not include overtime for the police officers serving on the mayor’s security detail.
Despite repeated requests, the city refuses to release the names of those officers or reports showing what those officers were doing while on the trips, citing security concerns even though those trips happened months ago.
What we do know is that in every case, Bibb did not travel alone. In some cases, members of his cabinet accompanied the mayor. In every case, records show Bibb had security with him. In some cases, it was one officer. For most, it was two.
But records show that when Bibb and his chief government affairs officer went to Reno, Nevada, last June, the pair took three police officers with them.
According to expense reports, taxpayers spent nearly $40,000 to cover flights, hotels, rental cars, meals and other travel-related costs for the mayor’s security team in 2022.
That included a July trip to New York City.
In a news release trumpeting Bibb’s selection to the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Institute program, the city claimed, “Mayor Bibb is attending at no cost to the city.”
While it’s true that Bibb didn’t expense the trip, we found records showing a member of the mayor’s security team did. In fact, the “no cost to the city trip” cost taxpayers more than $3,200 in expenses for that police officer.
That included a hotel bill for more than $1,400 and $969 to rent an SUV for four days in New York City.
According to the rental receipt, the total mileage racked up for those four days was 44 miles.
We asked security expert Tim Dimoff if security was necessary when Cleveland’s mayor traveled outside the state.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” said Dimoff, who has experience providing executive security. “It’s not hard for people that want to do criminal acts or aggressive-type behavior; it’s not unusual for them to easily hit the internet, have photos of those subjects and start to look for the one that doesn’t have security.”
While Dimoff did not think the cost to cover the travels of Bibb’s security team was excessive, he did have a problem with something else we found.
Records show that when the mayor and the city’s chief strategy officer flew to Austin, Texas, for last year’s South-by-Southwest Conference, the two executives stayed at the Fairmont Hotel.
But itineraries for the two security officers show they were in two separate hotels four blocks away.
Dimoff said that was “useless.”
“The security absolutely needs to be very close on a consistent basis to the subject that they’re protecting,” said Dimoff. “If that doesn’t happen, that protection is a waste of money and time and is a glitch in the security protocol.”
When we asked to interview Bibb about his travels, a spokesperson said the mayor wasn’t available.
Instead, the city sent a statement late Wednesday afternoon, calling Bibb’s work to “build strategic relationships” outside City Hall “an investment in the future of Cleveland” and points to more than $10.2 million in funding the city received credited to “the mayor’s advocacy and involvement.”
It’s unclear how much of that funding the city would have received anyway.
One thing the mayor and city hall still won’t discuss is the mayor’s security detail.
We asked, but the statement from the city didn’t answer any questions related to security.
CLICK HERE to read the city’s full statement.
RELATED: Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s office stonewalls requests for travel records
You can watch more of News 5’s previous coverage of this story in the player below:
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s office stonewalls requests for travel records
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.
You can also catch News 5 Cleveland on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu Live and more. We’re also on Amazon Alexa devices. Learn more about our streaming options here.