After asking Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan to consider resigning, new City Council member Trina Baughn requested trip and cost information for all of his city-related travel in the past five years.
She asked Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson for the trip information in a Wednesday afternoon e-mail.
Baughn requested the mayor’s travel records for the dozen boards and committees she knows about, as well as any she doesn’t. She asked Watson to also give the total cost of each trip, including mileage, per diem, hotel expenses, entertainment, and other charges, as well as the funding sources.
“I would like to know how much taxpayer money Mr. Beehan has spent for travel in his role as mayor,” Baughn said.
If the U.S. Department of Energy paid for the travel, Baughn said, Watson should name the specific funding source and the total amounts paid.
She requested the information by 1 p.m. Friday.
“Let me know if you foresee any problems in meeting this deadline,” Baughn told Watson.
Her request includes the mayor’s travel for meetings of boards and committees of the following organizations: the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, Oak Ridge Economic Partnership, the Tennessee Municipal League, the Energy Communities Alliance, PlanET, East Tennessee Economic Council, Anderson County Economic Development Association, and Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization, among others.
It wasn’t immediately clear how quickly Watson thought he could meet the request, if at all.
“I am glad to help, but this type of request will take a number of hours of staff time to prepare and is not readily available,” Watson said in a Wednesday afternoon response to Baughn. “It has been requested by another council member that this work assignment needs to be brought to a vote of the council for a directive as a priority for the city manager.”
In the meantime, Watson said he has two reports available that he will distribute to City Council. Oak Ridge City Clerk Diana Stanley has one, a 2012 summary report for the full City Council. The city has another report, a 2008 summary from former City Clerk Jackie Bernard, Watson said.
That response didn’t appear to satisfy Baughn, who was elected to her first four-year term on Nov. 6.
“In just about every organization I’ve worked for (in both the private and public sectors), travel records are centrally filed both electronically and in hard copy form,” she said. “This information request should not be terribly difficult to fill unless the travel itself is excessive. Roughly how many trips per year does he take?”
In one of his e-mail responses, Watson told Baughn that the City Council has a policy that members adopted many years ago outlining any travel conducted by a council member or the mayor.
“The purpose was to understand where all were going and helping the council to communicate,” Watson said.
Regarding a notice that Beehan will attend an ECA conference in New Orleans, Watson said ECA is a separate organization that includes DOE communities.
“Mayor Beehan’s costs will be reimbursed by DOE for the described trip, as they provide stipends for the various communities to encourage involvement,” Watson said. “I am sure you will get an opportunity to attend and meet other elected officials in the future that face some of the same environmental and legacy challenges we face in Oak Ridge. It is also an opportunity to meet and hear from high-level DOE officials and learn of various funding initiatives.”
Baughn said she received an earlier notice for Beehan’s trip to Boston last week for the National League of Cities conference.
Watson said the city budgets money each year for several council members to attend that conference.
“The National League of Cities is the national municipal league that advocates for national municipal policy,” Watson said. “The Tennessee League will also be present at the meeting, and there is an opportunity to meet with fellow Tennesseans as well as elected officials from other states.”
Beehan attended this year, as did council members David Mosby, Anne Garcia-Garland, and Chuck Hope, Watson said.
Baughn’s call for the mayor to consider resigning was included in a column posted on her website Tuesday and submitted to local media last week. In that column, Baughn also asked Beehan to drop his bid for a third two-year term.
The City Council is expected to appoint a mayor to a two-year term during a Monday evening meeting.
Beehan said he would not resign, and he called Baughn’s column “mostly fiction,” saying he would consider legal action against her if he were not an elected official.