Favorite

No accountability 

A security catch shrouds state plane use.


Gov. Mike Huckabee will not discuss with the Arkansas Times his use of a state-owned airplane for out-of-state travel that has little or no connection with his official duties. He cites security considerations in his refusal to justify personal use of taxpayer equipment and State Police employees.

For example, Huckabee and three members of his family used the state-owned airplane in October to fly to and from Washington, D.C., so he and his wife, Janet, could participate in the Marine Corps marathon. Why did security considerations deem necessary the use of the plane (rather than a commercial airliner) for Huckabee’s travel to a place where he and his wife would run and walk 26.2 miles through the streets of a city with a high crime rate? The explanation, too, is protected by “security.” Or so the governor’s staff says.

Left to guess why Huckabee feels confident that he is acting within the law, the Times found an advisory opinion issued Oct. 16, 1997, by the Arkansas Ethics Commission in response to a question from Bud Cummins, who was Huckabee’s chief legal counsel at the time. Cummins asked, “Whether [Arkansas Code] requiring the Arkansas State Police (ASP) to provide security for the governor authorizes the use of state-owned vehicles or airplanes to transport the governor to and from any destination for any purpose when the ASP determines that use of such a conveyance will optimize security for the governor?”

The commission’s “brief response” was, “Yes. There are no statutory restrictions on the use of state-owned airplanes. Ark. Code Ann. § 19-4-2103 specifically permits the use of state-owned vehicles for personal or non-official business by state constitutional officers.”

Subsection 19-4-2103 was passed into law in 1991 — before the State Police owned an airplane — and has not been amended since. Its full text is:

“(a) No constitutional officer or employee of a constitutional officer shall expend for personal use any moneys appropriated by the General Assembly for the maintenance and operation of the office, and the moneys appropriated for the maintenance and operation of the offices of the constitutional officers shall be expended only for official state business.

(b) This subchapter does not apply to the purchase, maintenance, and operation of state-owned motor vehicles.”

In its 1997 opinion the Ethics Commission noted that “if the State Police determine that it is in the best interest of the security of the Governor to transport him in his plane, there are no statutory restrictions preventing the Governor’s use of the ASP plane, regardless of the nature of the journey.” However, there was an important caveat:

“That said, the Commission is not willing to opine that the ASP plane can be used by the Governor for any reason. In this regard, the Office of the Governor furnished the Commission with a set of voluntarily adopted internal policies that restrict the use of state-owned airplanes, to wit:

1. State airplanes do not transport the Governor on journeys that are solely political in nature.

2. State airplanes do not transport the Governor on journeys that are solely religious in nature.

3. State airplanes do not transport the Governor on non-official, out-of-state trips or for any personal trips solely related to outside business or investment activities.”

The part of Arkansas law most closely related to the subject was written before the state owned an airplane and therefore does not address it, allowing the governor’s office to utilize the plane without restriction as part of his security needs. However, neither the State Police nor Huckabee will discuss how those security needs are determined — even after travel is completed — so it is impossible to know why the airplane is so crucial for his personal safety.

In short, “security” seems to be a magic word that, when uttered, eliminates the need for the Huckabee administration to account for the expenditure of public money. Ask Huckabee how he justifies using the state-owned plane, and he cites “security” and refers additional questions to the State Police. Ask the State Police how they determine whether the plane is necessary for the governor’s security, and they cite “security.” Ask in retrospect why in a particular instance the plane was necessary for the governor’s security, and they cite “security.”

Most of Huckabee’s out-of-state travel on the state-owned airplane (as documented previously in the Times) is connected to his involvement in the National Governors Association and similar organizations, arguably related to his public office. However, in August the plane retrieved Huckabee in New Hampshire, where he was making political appearances before Republican groups. He did fly on from there to a governor’s meeting in another state so that Huckabee could perhaps argue this trip was not “exclusively” for political purposes.


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Warwick Sabin

  • Helena's disappearing buildings

    Preservationists hope to slow demolitions.
    • Mar 22, 2007
  • Trailers headed to Dumas

    Gov. Mike Beebe issued the following statement earlier today: Although this decision by FEMA to deny emergency funds to Desha County defies common sense, Arkansas will take care of its own people.
    • Mar 9, 2007
  • Youth Ranch robbed, vandalized

    According to a press release we just received: The Donald W. Reynolds Campus of the Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranches (The Ranch) located near Fort Smith was vandalized overnight Thursday.  Items stolen during the break-in included all of the children’s saddles, food, tools and supplies from The Ranch’s carpentry shop and all equipment from its auto shop.  An investigation is underway with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office.
    • Mar 9, 2007
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Kanis development decried

    Fletcher Hollow wrong place for density, neighbors tell LR planners.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • Eligible voters removed from rolls

    Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Real Republicans don't do pre-K

    Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Arkansas archeologist does his job, is asked to leave

    Amid Department of Arkansas Heritage project.

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation