Case Says Mayor Wrote Personal Checks To Reimburse City
Cheyenne City Council President Rocky Case says Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr has written personal checks to the City of Cheyenne totaling "about $700" as reimbursement for some of the money that was spent from an award given to the city by the Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Bloomberg awarded the city $100,000 in early 2018 through it's ''Mayoral Challenge" program. The money was awarded for downtown redevelopment efforts as part of a competition to be one of four cities to win a $1 million prize from the foundation.
The deadline for spending the money was October of 2018. After questions were raised about how the money was spent earlier this year, the city agreed to return about $33,000 that had not been spent and another roughly $23,000 that was determined to have been spent in a way that did not meet the criteria of the award. The $23,000 to repay that portion of the grant was taken from the mayor's discretionary fund.
Case, appearing on KGAB radio on Friday morning, said the mayor recently wrote personal checks totalling 'about $700" to reimburse the city for Bloomberg money that was spent.
Townsquare Media Cheyenne contacted Mayor Orr's office on Friday morning (December 6) in regard to Case's statements; In response, the mayor's office emailed KGAB the following memo from the mayor to the Cheyenne City Council:
November 22, 2019
TO: City Council
FR: Marian Orr, Mayor
RE: Expenditures Meeting
Good afternoon. As you have asked me not to attend today’s meeting on the spending of city funds, I will say to you in this memo what I would say to you personally. I am fully responsible for any errors that I have made. After three years in office and thousands of expenses later, I am responsible for any mistakes — no matter how innocent or inadvertent those mistakes were. The buck must stop with me.
When you are an elected official, you live in a glass house. You know that going in. I welcome the scrutiny much like I know all the men who make up the City Council would welcome the same amount of scrutiny.
With that, I will address the following points:
1. The expenditures are all in furtherance of City business.
2. I appreciate having these line-by-line expenditures looked at again, even though the vouchers which contained the expenses were approved by Council. I identified some oversights that I appreciate being able to address and those have been remedied. For example, I was unaware a ticket had been purchased for my husband to attend the Governor’s Arts Awards in 2018. That ticket was reimbursed.
3. There were two instances at the USS Cheyenne ceremony where a meal was combined with the city card for my husband, and that was reimbursed.
4. In 2018, I was one of 40 mayors chosen to be a part of the Harvard Kennedy Leadership Class. Following the five-day conference, I immediately reimbursed the city for personal charges. Additional charges were found and those have been reimbursed.
5. Many missing itemized receipts have been located. There was a period when my assistant was out of the office on FMLA and a backup plan was not in place. As a result, receipts during that period did not get recorded. A new process is in place to assure that all receipts are collected and itemized should an instance like that occur again. It’s important to note that while most establishments provide itemized receipts, not all do, especially in other countries.
6. The airline charges are for economy plus seating. At 5’2” I do not need more leg room. Economy-plus seating provides for electrical outlets to each seat to allow me to work on my laptop, stay connected to the office and constituents along with the purchase of internet services. These trips are business, and I remain on-call and available even while traveling. No first-class or business-class seats were ever purchased by the city.
7. I have detailed my travel to the receipts/expenditures. Most of the travel I spent far below what would be allowed using per diem. Overall, being reimbursed for my actual expenses rather than receiving per diem saved the City thousands of dollars.
8. Except for the US Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting (which mayors going back to Bill Nation have attended), I was invited to participate as either a member of a selected class or invited to present as a speaker for those events. Of note, I was one of 25 female elected leaders nationwide selected for the Women in Government Class, and I was one of 40 mayors selected world-wide to participate in a year-long Harvard Kennedy City Leadership Class. I was invited as a speaker and guest panelist for other meetings I attended. I was invited by the Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs committee to attend both the tour of the USS Cheyenne in San Diego, and then for their homecoming in Hawaii. Other mayors and city staff have attended these same events in the past. These were not events that I sought out, but rather I was invited to represent Cheyenne. One would think it would be a positive that the mayor of Cheyenne has been asked to represent the city on national and international stages.
9. If this matter was purely about taxpayer dollar oversight, Council had the opportunity to see every receipt and charge on a monthly basis prior to approving the vouchers and question me at the time. If this was about taxpayer dollar oversight, please recognize that by traveling using actual expenses versus a per-diem reimbursement, the city saved over $10,000.00.
In closing, I stand by every meeting, conference, and opportunity for education and advocacy that I have attended.
I have been honored to be recognized both nationally and internationally for the work our team is doing here in Cheyenne, and sharing our lessons learned with other communities, while gaining additional tools and resources to bring home.
I have been honored to tour the USS Cheyenne and welcome them back to their home base following an eight-month deployment out at sea. I was a guest presenter in Toronto, Canada at a Future Cities summit talking about the work we are doing in our development office. I was the only United States Mayor on a panel with other mayors from Canada and Mexico to speak to our Community Policing efforts in Cheyenne.
I was a guest presenter in China regarding blockchain and how the legislation passed on a state level has gained interest in local economic opportunities with businesses looking to relocate to our capital city. And then there is the statewide travel I have incurred representing Cheyenne’s interests before the Wyoming State Legislature.
Yes, there is a cost to the city to be pro-active and have a seat in local, regional, national, and global discussions. I have tried very hard to be a good steward of our taxpayer dollars.
Mistakes were found and I made them right. I will do better in the future. I am proud of the public service I perform. And it is a service. Many of these meetings occurred over weekends or conflicted with family events such as birthdays and anniversaries. I use my own personal funds to tip the hotel housekeepers, the bellmen, and sky cabs and have never sought reimbursement. I am pleased our monthly financial records are on our website and believe we can provide even more transparency with an Open Books financial platform.
Finally, I thank the city staff for the countless hours they have spent providing you the detail you requested. Their efforts alone have been in the tens of thousands of dollars spent in work production time to produce the documents you have before you. My door remains open to you, and to our citizens.