Air Force One | Arkansas Blog

Friday, May 18, 2007

Air Force One

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2007 at 3:06 PM

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The State Police showed off its new $4.4 million King Air today and Brian Chilson was on hand with his camera. If past is prologue, the plane will serve primarily as Gov. Mike Beebe's executive aircraft. His press staff was on hand with a new written policy on use of the plane, a matter of some controversy when Mike Huckabee was governor.

The policy says Beebe will NOT use the plane for travel "unrelated" to the governor's duties -- UNLESS "the governor is permitted to reimburse the state for such use." I have a question in on the reimbursement rate. However, the FAA apparently prohibits the governor from reimbursing for private use of the plane, so it's sort of a moot pont. EXCEPT: "The governor's office is presently working to determine if there is a way, without jeopardizing the plane's current favorable licensure status, to permit the governor to reimburse the state for any nonofficial use of the plane should he decide to use the plane for such purposes in the future."

Lots of wiggle room in the governor's stated intent to allow public inspection of records related to the plane's use. The records will be released only after a flight is made. And the governor may withhold information if there is a "compelling reason" to do so, such as trips to recruit new businesses where negotiations are kept confidential. Information on these trips will be released "when the need to maintain confidentiality no longer exists." But, ultimately, "compelling" will be defined by the guy using the plane and none of us in the dark will be the wiser about those decisions.

The policy says "flight manifests" will be made available. In the past, these did not include the name of all passengers. The written policy does not specify that all passengers' names will be released. Why not say the manifest shall include destinations, passengers, purpose, flying time for all trips, and that the information be routinely kept, not merely assembled "upon request," as the policy now specifies. As the policy is written, you could argue that a reporter would have to know a flight occurred to be able to inquire about "specific uses," and not necessarily be able to make a blanket request for all information about all uses. I am SURE that's just inadequate drafting and the sunshine-splashed Beebe administration has no such nefarious intention to make it hard to get info. Right, Matt?

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