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What we know about Gov. Whitmer's controversial Florida trip

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Posted at 9:45 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 21:45:22-04

LANSING, Mich.  — A flight to Florida has become the center of controversy for Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Last month, it was revealed Whitmer took an out-of-state trip in March, while at the same time urging people to stay home, as COVID-19 cases surged in the state.

Whitmer says she went to help assist her ailing elderly father, who owns property in the sunshine state. Her office says they didn’t disclose personal travel information at the time because of security concerns.

“I took a brief trip from a Friday to Monday; two full days I was there. It was not a vacation, and it was not a gift,” Whitmer said at a press conference Wednesday. “This flight was not paid for at taxpayer expense. I don't know that there's anything more to add.”

On Friday her office released more information about who paid for the private flight.

According to a financial filing posted online, the non-profit organization Michigan Transition 2019 paid $27,521 to charter the flights. Whitmer paid $855 for her seat on the Gulfstream G280 jet.

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The non-profits financial filing from May.

The 501c4 nonprofit that footed the bill is tied to the governor and was created to pay for her inauguration. Republicans blasting that latest revelation, Michigan Rising Action Executive Director Tori Sachs called for the payment to be investigated. “There is no legal theory where reimbursing $800 for a $27,000 flight solves anything,” Sachs tweeted.

The plane is reportedly owned by the families of three prominent Michigan business owners, but the company who operates it, Air Eagle, may have potentially violated federal regulations.

The Federal Aviation Administration telling FOX 17 Monday, the company does not have proper certification to operate chartered flights and that they are investigating the matter

‘We confirmed that Air Eagle does not have a Part 135 certificate. It's premature to conclude that a violation of Federal Aviation Regulations occurred. The FAA is looking into the matter,” says an agency spokesperson.

Republican lawmakers say there are still questions they want answers to and they may open their own investigation.

“What was the purpose of the nonprofit chartering this plane?" asked state Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) in a phone interview with FOX 17. "If it was indeed just for the governor to travel to Florida, well then her $800 ticket isn’t sufficient."

Johnson, who chairs the Michigan House Oversight Committee, plans on asking the administration for answers to specific questions and is considering holding hearings to look into the financial arrangements of the governor’s travel. "Things are just not adding up on this trip. It seems like she's trying to hide something,” he added.

Meanwhile, Governor Whitmer's chief of staff JoAnne Huls admits they could have done a better job in clearing up questions surrounding the trip. “I acknowledge we could have done a better job of answering questions about this trip with more clarity while also balancing the need to protect the governor’s security, and for that i take responsibility,” she said in a statement.