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Cauthen's Travels

Records show that the city manager makes frequent and pricey trips at taxpayer expense.


Kansas City, Missouri, City Manager Wayne Cauthen has a reputation around City Hall as being a guy who isn’t at his desk much. The reason for that is found in his travel expenses, which detail his trips around the country and internationally, often several times a month.

Cauthen spent $32,163 on 23 trips between January 1, 2006, and October 8, 2007. That’s according to travel-expense statements released recently to The Pitch through a public-records request. The documents show that Cauthen logged 74 days traveling and spent nearly $1,400, on average, per trip.

The trips include pricey travels abroad:

• Cauthen spent seven days in Europe in December 2006 at a cost to the city of $6,213. That trip was to pitch Kansas City’s entry in the World Leadership Awards in London, but he also made stops in Paris and Bordeaux, France. Cauthen claimed $951.50 in per diem expenses, an average of $135 a day. He also claimed $982 on transportation, or $140 a day.

• In July 2006, Cauthen traveled with his wife, Rita Dixon-Cauthen, to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, for the Large Cities Executive Forum; that trip cost Kansas City $3,010. Cauthen spent seven days in Victoria for a three-day event.

• Cauthen spent $1,615 for a three-day trip to Winnipeg in May 2006 for a meeting of the Tri-National Advocacy for Efficient, Secure and Environmentally Conscious Trade & Transportation group.

• He spent four days in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in September 2006 at a cost of $1,426. His travel receipts do not explain the purpose of the trip, other than "business conference ... International-Halifax."

• In July 2007 Cauthen spent five days in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for the Large Cities Conference, costing the city $2,458.

Cauthen’s trips include exorbitant airfare, luxury hotels and expensive transportation. Among his expenses:

• In March 2006, he traveled to the National League of Cities conference in Washington, D.C., and spent $1,524 on airfare.

• Two weeks later, Cauthen returned to D.C. for a meeting with the FAA and spent another $967 on airfare.

• For the International City/County Management Association Conference in September 2006, Cauthen charged the city for his flight to D.C. from San Antonio, Texas, but there’s no indication in the records that he was in San Antonio on city business. He flew back to Kansas City, and the three-city airfare cost the city $1,500.

On Friday, December 7, Cauthen told The Pitch that the records must be in error. “I don’t think I made a mistake,” Cauthen said. “If anybody made a mistake, it’s the person who drafted the paperwork.”

The person in charge of Cauthen’s travel expenses is his executive assistant, Terrie Smidt, who was on vacation on Friday.

Addressing questions about specific trips, Cauthen said some of the longer trips include times when he took vacation days. But the records do not reflect that, showing that Cauthen charged the city per diem expenses during what would have been his vacation time. For the Victoria trip, Cauthen said he spent three days there on business and then four days on vacation. The records indicate that he filed per diem reimbursement requests on all seven days and hotel costs of $1,427, meaning he either charged the city for hotel costs for the entire week or paid $475 a night for the three working days.

For the trip to Europe, Cauthen said he spent one day in Paris as a vacation day and another in Bordeaux to inspect the city’s light rail system. The records released to The Pitch do include an eighth day that he did not file expenses. But the records also include three days for which he charged the city for what Cauthen said were train tickets within France, at a total cost of $620. At least one of those tickets would have been for his personal trip to Paris.

"I'm just telling you that I pay for my trips. I understand the difference between business and pleasure,” Cauthen said of the personal days he has taken while traveling for business.

Cauthen said he’s conscious of trying to keep expenses down. He said he wasn’t sure why his airfare was so expensive to places such as Washington, D.C. He said one possible reason, though he couldn’t be sure, may be that he needs to book last-minute tickets to make sure he will be available to travel on those days. “Maybe we need to fire our travel agent. I don’t know,” Cauthen said. “I do the trips. I don’t do the record-keeping or the reservations.”

Many of Cauthen’s trips were booked by Wingate Travel of Overland Park. The travel agent in charge of the account declined to comment.

Cauthen says he doesn’t see a problem with how much he has spent or how many days he travels. He said his contract with the city requires him to do some traveling, including to conferences.

“I’m a city manager. I represent the city on a wide-range of things,” he said. “I’m very cautious of my travel.”

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