Audit Sought of Alabama Governor's Use of State Planes

Rep. Keahey said he was particularly concerned about two flights taken by the governor in recent months to attend the weddings of a former aide and a member of his security staff.


MONTGOMERY - A state legislator has introduced a resolution in the House that seeks an official audit of Gov. Bob Riley's use of state aircraft.

The resolution by Rep. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, asks the state Examiners of Public Accounts to subpoena the flight logs of aircraft used by the governor and do a complete audit to "determine whether private or personal travel was made at state expense without full and appropriate reimbursement to the state. "

Keahey said he was particularly concerned about two flights taken by the governor in recent months to attend the weddings of a former aide and a member of his security staff. The resolution could come up for a vote in the House this week.

Riley told The Associated Press on Friday that he welcomes an audit of records of his flights on state planes and helicopters.

"That's absolutely fine with me," Riley said. He said he always checks with officials at the Alabama Ethics Commission before taking flights that appear to have a personal purpose.

"I'm not accusing him of doing anything wrong. I just want it audited and checked," Keahey said.

The flight logs for the governor's trips, which Riley posts on his official Web site, show that on Feb. 17, the governor, first lady Patsy Riley and several staff members flew on a state plane to Columbus, Ga., to attend the wedding of Stephen Tidwell, a member of Riley's security team.

On March 17, the governor, first lady and several staff members flew to Jackson, Miss., to attend the wedding of former Riley aide Josh Blades, the flight logs show.

Riley said the flights to the weddings were in compliance with state law.

"You know we ask the Ethics Commission questions before we go anywhere, anytime," Riley said.

The attorney for the Alabama Ethics Commission, Hugh Evans, said Alabama law is "pretty liberal concerning what it allows the governor to do with the plane."

Section 16-13-10 of the Alabama Code gives the governor control of "all state property," a statute that has been interpreted in the past to mean the governor can use the plane for most purposes, except occasions where he is personally profiting from the trip, and that the governor must reimburse the state for political trips.

The flight logs show numerous occasions where Riley has used campaign funds to reimburse the state for political trips.

Keahey is a 26-year-old lawyer in Grove Hill in southwest Alabama and is the youngest member of the Legislature. He is serving his first term in the House and said he ran last year on a promise of working to bring accountability and ethics reform to state government.

"I just decided the resolution was the proper thing to do. I haven't been on the plane. I'm not sure what's legal," said Keahey, who said he believes officials should reimburse the state for personal use of government property.

House Minority Leader Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said Republicans in the House would not fight the resolution.

"I would welcome, and the governor welcomes, any kind of scrutiny. He is the first governor to post his flight log on the Internet. I think it will prove this governor is beyond reproach," said Hubbard, who is chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and a close friend of the governor.

He said the governor usually tries to avoid using state planes for personal use.

"There have been trips that I have flown with the governor where we flew commercial because it was not a state deal," Hubbard said.



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