- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2004

D.C. police officers who protect Mayor Anthony A. Williams have charged more than $320,000 in expenses on government-issued credit cards for out-of-town trips, including bills at a luxury beachfront hotel in Hawaii, a Las Vegas nightclub and the Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York, city records show.

The Executive Protection Unit of the Metropolitan Police Department has dispatched police officers, sergeants, detectives and lieutenants on more than 130 out-of-town trips with Mr. Williams since 1999, charging at least $322,480 for meals, car rentals, hotels and other expenses, according to financial records obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act.

The charges do not include the salaries or overtime expenses of the officers, who earn between $53,000 to $80,495 per year, records show.

A spokesman for Mr. Williams said the mayor’s business travels have helped boost the city’s reputation, sparking $27 billion in real-estate investment since Mr. Williams became mayor.

“The reason they’re coming here is that they have confidence in the mayor, and they have been inspired and encouraged by him to invest in the city,” said Tony Bullock, a spokesman for Mr. Williams.

“He’s selling D.C. to potential investors. He’s bringing jobs and economic opportunity to D.C. residents. It’s not happening by accident, it’s happening because he’s making it happen,” Mr. Bullock said.

He said Mr. Williams isn’t the only mayor who uses city police to provide security on trips. He said the practice exists in other major cities.

However, the mayor’s travel schedule has come under sharp criticism lately after a D.C. Council member said Mr. Williams’ recent trip to Italy for a conference of world municipal leaders hurt the city’s chances of hiring a new schools superintendent.

“I do not believe the answer is handing the school system over to the mayor, who, let’s be honest, is rarely in town,” council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, said during a council meeting last month.

According to other financial records obtained by The Times, Mr. Williams has charged about $14,000 per year on his city-issued credit card, including travel expenses, during 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Quarterly reports issued by the D.C. Office of Partnerships and Grants, which monitors donations to city government, show that outside organizations such as the National League of Cities also contribute to Mr. Williams’ travel costs.

However, city government routinely pays the travel costs of police officers who protect the mayor when he takes trips outside the city.

For example, the Washington Convention and Tourism Corp. donated $5,500 for Mr. Williams and his staff to attend the American Society of Association Executives in Hawaii last August, according to the Office of Partnerships and Grants. But city taxpayers paid more than $7,900 so that a city police officer and detective could accompany Mr. Williams on the trip, police records show.

Police officials referred questions about the costs associated with the mayor’s security detail during out-of-town trips to Mr. Bullock, who said, “Security isn’t the kind of thing we discuss publicly, for obvious reasons.”

City records show that the mayor’s security details usually consist of two officers per trip, though seven accompanied him in 2000 to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, which included a stop in Idaho. Police estimated that security-detail travel expenses for that trip topped $15,000.

Police department policy says officers only protect the mayor while he is in the United States, and the officers generally do not accompany him outside the country, according to police memos.

In one instance, Mr. William had a three-hour layover in Los Angeles on his way to Australia in September 2000. Police records do not indicate that an officer was sent to Australia, but an officer did go to Los Angeles after Mr. Williams made plans to meet with family during a three-hour layover in the city, according to a police memo.

Mr. Bullock defended the security costs.

“I don’t think anyone would begrudge the costs of keeping the mayor safe,” he said. “You don’t send a sitting mayor into a strange city without security. It’s not safe.”

Mr. Bullock said security “isn’t something we joke about.” He said that city police decide on how many officers should accompany the mayor on trips out of the city.

“We leave it up to the police to determine what they think is required,” Mr. Bullock said. “The mayor is not demanding a particular level of support.”

“Bear in mind that the former mayor was shot, so it’s not something we joke about,” Mr. Bullock said. Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was shot in the chest in 1977 while serving as a council member during a raid of City Hall by Hanafi Muslim terrorists.

The travel records obtained by The Times show that the mayor travels more frequently now, compared with when he first took office.

In 1999, city police officers accompanied the mayor on 22 trips and charged $30,629 in travel expenses. Last year, the police took 37 trips with the mayor and charged $95,439.

Police have charged for bills at the Spycher Fondue House in Switzerland, the Tavern on the Green in New York City and the “Rum Jungle” in Las Vegas, according to the records.

Police who protect the mayor also have stayed in some expensive hotel rooms, from Hawaii and Alaska to the District. The expenses include the $229-per-night Mansfield Hotel in New York, the $219-per-night Eldorado in New Mexico and the $171.75-per-night Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in the District, where Mr. Williams and his wife stayed for one night during Hurricane Isabel last fall.

Mr. Williams is set to become the president of the National League of Cities next year, a position that will require him to travel, Mr. Bullock said.

“It does involve a lot of moving around,” Mr. Bullock said. “There are a lot of meetings all over the country, but the mayor uses those meetings as an opportunity to promote Washington as a tourist destination and also to bring our voting-rights issue to a national audience.”

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