A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Gov. Bevin releases log of official (not unofficial) trips on state-owned aircraft, to be posted on website

Staff report

Gov. Matt Bevin released a log disclosing the purpose of his official trips using state-owned aircraft in light of recent media reports.

“Since the start of our administration, we have been 100 percent committed to financial integrity and to ensuring that we are good stewards of taxpayer resources,” Bevin said.

The log, available here, details the purpose of each flight and shows a range of official activities requiring air travel, including economic development meetings with prospective companies, ribbon cuttings to celebrate business growth, community forums across the state, meetings with White House officials to advocate for Kentucky’s interests, bill signings, and other significant events.

Gov. Matt Bevin

While a flight log that shows the destination and passengers on each flight using state-owned aircraft has historically been available to the public, for more than 20 years, the Governor said, public officials have not been required by law to release the reason for official trips, and such information is exempt from Kentucky’s open records law.

The plane ensures that the governor can not only travel to every corner of the state but can also travel outside the Commonwealth to recruit business and represent Kentucky.

Past Kentucky governors have chosen to consider the purpose of official trips to be part of the governor’s daily schedule.

The statute also sets forth the requirements for using the state aircraft for unofficial travel by the governor, and the state is reimbursed for all such trips.

That statute does not require the disclosure of the purpose of unofficial travel, the governor said, but records of reimbursement for unofficial travel by the governor are available pursuant to an open records request.

These records for all unofficial travel show the flight destination, passenger manifest, cost, and the name of the person or entity who made the reimbursement to the state.

A log for official flights will be uploaded to governor.ky.gov shortly for future access by the public and media. The log will remain on the website and will be updated upon receipt of the monthly Kentucky State Police flight logs.

In response to reporters’ questions earlier in the week, Bevin said it was “none of their business” (meaning taxpayers’) how he used the plane for unofficial business because reimbursements were made.

“It’s hard to reconcile ‘none of their business’ with an ‘unprecedented move to further transparency,'” said Amye Bensenhaver, an opens record expert, retired assistant attorney general and founder of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition.”But a summary of public records is not equivalent to the records themselves and is not open records compliance. There is no way to verify the truthfulness or accuracy by means of contemporaneous record keeping.

“My concern has been whether a record (other than the governor’s schedule) exists that provides a complete accounting. If the governor really wants to make an “unprecedented” (actually not unprecedented since past governors have released their schedules) move to further transparency, he can waive the arguably applicable exceptions and the 1995 Court of Appeals’ ruling in Jones v Courier Journal, and release his schedule. I assume it will verify that his administration has been a ‘good steward of taxpayer resources.’”

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