Two men vying for Lexington's top job traveled more frequently than the men who previously held their jobs, an analysis of travel records shows.
Mayor Jim Gray took 25 trips from January 2011 until July 2014, more than former Mayor Jim Newberry. But Newberry spent more of the city's money.
Gray frequently pays his own way, travel receipts from the city show. Newberry spent more than $22,000 on travel and took 18 out-of-state trips. Gray has spent $15,074 of city money on hotel, air travel and other travel expenses. But he paid more than $12,916 of his own money to travel to conduct city business, according to documents provided to the Herald-Leader.
Anthany Beatty, the assistant vice president of campus services at the University of Kentucky, has taken 22 out-of-state trips since he took over the job in January 2008. He's spent $37,475 of university money on travel. That's six times what his predecessor — former associate vice president Ken Clevidence — spent from January 2003 to July 2007. (Travel records before 2003 were not reliable because of a change in the way the university tracked travel records, university officials said).
Beatty, a former Lexington police chief, will face Gray on Nov. 4.
How much a candidate travels, where and why they travel can tell voters about a candidate's priorities and the candidate's views on tax dollars, said Don Dugi, a professor of political science at Transylvania University.
"If the travel is purposeful, not a 'junket' and not excessive," most voters are OK with it, Dugi said. The fact that Gray pays some of his expenses out of his own pocket shows Gray is cognizant of the city's budget constraints, he said.
Beatty is not in public office, but his past travel history might give voters an idea of how he would spend taxpayer dollars if elected, Dugi said.
The Herald-Leader obtained the travel records from the University of Kentucky and the city under the state's Open Records Act.
Gray says that his trips — ranging from frequent visits to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional leaders to a trip to Boston to lure law firm Bingham McCutchen LLP to Lexington — did not detract from his day-to-day responsibilities of running the city.
Beatty said it wasn't fair to compare his travel records to those of Clevidence because Clevidence's responsibilities were different. Clevidence oversaw facilities and a host of other departments, while Beatty was hired to focus on public safety. As assistant vice president of campus services, Beatty oversees police, parking, transportation services, and environmental health and safety operations.
Both men declined to criticize the other candidate's travel. And both men said travel gives them opportunities to raise the profiles of their respective employers and to learn best practices.
"I think that any leader of any organization would know that it's important to get out there and see what's happening in the real world," Beatty said.
Gray, the former CEO of Gray Construction, said that as mayor, he is the city's chief marketing officer.
"I always said when I was in business, don't wait for the phone to ring," Gray said. "The recession was one of the best times to meet customers."
Beatty's longest trip was to Turkey in 2009. The two-week trip cost $2,055 and was sponsored by the Rumi Forum, a group that promotes multicultural awareness and interfaith dialogue. Beatty went to Turkey with staff from UK, Transylvania University and others. Rumi picked up most of the cost of the trip, he said. The $2,055 price tag was mostly for airfare and other costs, such as some meals.
Beatty defended the trip, saying he works closely with the Middle Eastern population on campus. As police chief, Beatty developed close ties with the Muslim community after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That work continued at UK, he said.
"I work closely with our students who are of Middle Eastern descent and try to serve as a mentor to them," Beatty said.
Many of Beatty's trips were annual weeklong conferences for the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Organization for Black Law Enforcement Executives.
Beatty said he was involved with both groups when he was Lexington's police chief, a position he held for six years before he retired in late 2007. He was encouraged to continue his association with the two groups by UK officials, he said.
Beatty said he has held leadership positions in both organizations. That made it possible for him to recruit the National Organization for Black Law Enforcement Executives to hold its annual meeting in Lexington in 2011, he said. That event had more than 1,100 attendees, who pumped money into the local economy, Beatty said.
When asked whether it was more appropriate to send UK Police Chief Joe Monroe to those conferences, Beatty said that Monroe also is involved with the International Association of Chiefs of Police through its university and campus security division. From 2008 to 2013, Beatty also attended Commerce Lexington's annual leadership trips, which are typically two- or three-day visits to another city.
Beatty, who had traveled as often as two or three times a year, has no university-paid travel records after October 2013.
Beatty said he quit traveling in 2014 because he knew campaigning was going to take up most of his time. He went on the 2014 Commerce Lexington trip but said he decided to pay for it himself.
"I didn't want there to be a conflict of interest," Beatty said.
Clevidence, Beatty's predecessor, also attended the Commerce Lexington trips during his tenure. Those trips account for four of Clevidence's seven out-of-state trips. The other three trips Clevidence took were one- or two-day visits to the Washington, D.C., area to see UK police officers graduate from the FBI or ATF academy programs.
Clevidence said he has no problems with Beatty attending the Commerce Lexington trips. Those trips gave university officials the opportunity to meet other Lexington leaders with whom they do business. They also learn about what's working in other cities.
"Those Commerce Lexington trips were a good investment for the university," Clevidence said. "You had the opportunity to communicate with government people and other leaders in Lexington."
But Clevidence also said that he thinks Beatty travels too much and hasn't done enough to support the departments that report to him.
Clevidence has given more than $2,950 to Gray's campaigns from 2002 to 2014, according to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance records. But Clevidence said his criticism is based on complaints he has heard from former colleagues, not on politics.
"I have supported Jim (Gray) in the past and still do," he said. "But my basic concern is that Beatty really hasn't done his job supporting the people that report to his office."
Clevidence has also given to other candidates including Newberry and former Mayor Teresa Isaac, campaign finance records show.
Beatty denied he travels too much and said he is always available to his staff and the departments that report to him.
"I've always been there for any significant event on campus," Beatty said. "I think he thinks I shouldn't be running for office, and he's going to make it difficult for me. I don't relish the idea of someone questioning my integrity and my character. I would never, ever do anything that would be detrimental to the city of Lexington or the university."
The Herald-Leader also obtained Beatty's personnel file from UK. It contains no negative reviews or complaints. UK officials have signed off on all of his travel expenses.
"The Office of Campus Services does have an annual travel budget of $7,000, and actual travel expenditures have been less than the annual budget for at least the last five fiscal years," said Jay Blanton, a spokesman for UK. The budget can be used by Beatty or other people in his division.
As mayor, Gray traveled to 10 cities in 2012. Those trips included one with the University of Kentucky to Detroit to help lure more automakers to Kentucky, and several trips to New York.
In contrast, Newberry took six trips in both 2007 and 2009, the highest number per year in his four-year term as mayor. .
Newberry said he took two out-of-country trips to France in 2007. One of those was for the 50th anniversary of the Sister Cities program. The city paid for Newberry's airfare, according to city records. The French government, which was trying to improve Franco-American relationships, paid for Newberry's second trip. During the second trip, Newberry said, he was also prepping and encouraging people to come to the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington.
Gray has not traveled out of the country on city business, travel records indicate.
Gray said many of his trips are short — one- or two-day trips. At least two of the trips Gray took involved flying to a city and returning the same day, city travel records show.
Gray said his trips have not impeded his ability to manage the city's business. On the contrary, part of a mayor's job is to promote the city, he said.
"You are traveling frequently to meet people and to grow and improve."
Gray also attended Commerce Lexington leadership trips as well as twice-yearly trips to Washington to meet with the state's congressional delegation.
Gray has also been asked to speak at conferences. When Gray spoke at a conference, nearly all of his travel was picked up by the conference, according to city records.
Gray also took trips to Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York to meet with mayors there. Newberry attended many meetings of the U.S. Conference of Mayors but did not make individual trips to visit certain mayors, travel records show.
When asked whether the city benefitted from his trips to visit mayors in other cities, Gray said: "I wanted to hear from other mayors about what's working, that's why I went to New York, Atlanta and Philadelphia."
In August 2012, Gray spent $293 of city money and $446.50 of his own money to visit Bingham McCutchen, an international law firm looking to relocate its operations center. The firm chose Lexington, and the deal was announced in Sept. 2012.
Gray said his Boston trip was a "deal-closer," that brought Bingham to Lexington.
Gray said his trips have also generated other ideas about planning and urban development.
Gray did not attend a 2012 U.S. Conference of Mayors trip, city records show. The city lost a $700 deposit it paid for the trip.
Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for the city, said Gray had to cancel at the last minute because he was ill.
Gray said he picks up the tab for some of his travel expenses because he is aware of the city's revenue constraints. The travel budget for the mayor's office for the current fiscal year is $10,000.
"We have a limited travel budget and we have stayed within it," Gray said. "I recognize that with a limited budget and limited resources sometimes it meant stretching with my personal resources to get the job done."
According to city records, Gray paid for part — or all — of trips to visit with the Brookings Institution, a Washington nonprofit think tank, or to attend the Yale Summit, a conference involving top business leaders and four mayors.
Gray also paid $1,110 for a flight and hotel for a 2012 Final Four trip to New Orleans.
"Perception is part of it," Gray said of some of the trips he decides to pay for out-of-pocket.
Gray said he thinks that he travels less than many mayors.
Vice Mayor Linda Gorton, the city's longest-serving council member, has served under four mayors, including Gray and Newberry. Gorton said there has never been an issue — that she can recall — of a mayor being gone on a trip during a crisis. Gorton said that how much a mayor travels or the costs have never been an issue. But she said the council has never seen Gray or any mayor's total travel expenses.
For his part, Gray says he only travels when he needs to.
"Travel is not something I do to sightsee," Gray said. "It is not something I particularly enjoy, so I only do it when necessary."