Gov. Matt Bevin on Thursday publicly released a log disclosing the purpose of his official trips using state-owned aircraft in light of recent media reports critical of him.
“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. “This was, unfortunately, not the case under previous governors. Although it has not been required, or even asked of previous administrations, we are very happy to release documentation showing the purpose of official travel so that taxpayers can have full confidence that state resources are supporting official travel to further economic development, business expansion, attracting tourism, and other key initiatives undertaken by our administration. Taxpayers deserve nothing less from any of their elected officials.”
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.
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, 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 and therefore have not released that information.
In an open records opinion from Attorney General Andy Beshear in May of this year (19-ORD-085), the Attorney General agreed with this interpretation, citing the case of Courier-Journal v. Jones and holding that a public official’s appointment schedule “should be free from media interference.”
Until now, the media have largely agreed with the Attorney General’s interpretation and generally have not challenged prior denials of open records requests for the governor’s schedule. However, recent stories in the state’s two largest newspapers have questioned the use of the state plane for official purposes.
Bevin’s office said his use of state-owned aircraft fully complies with the law as established in KRS 174.506. 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, 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 showing the date and purpose of official flights from December 2015 through August 2019 is currently available here and 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.
By Tom Latek, Kentucky Today