Wading through the rich travel logs of the state plane manifest, we've gotten some answer to more questions. We've have Bill McCollum and Alex Sink's video responses, taped on Monday and Wednesday of this week, and we've also got a correction to a detail that was first reported in today's story:
Example 1, Alex Sink:
* On Friday, March 7, 2008, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink traveled to Miami to see the Florida International University's Wall of Wind exhibit, spoke to the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and then had the plane take her and one staff member from Miami to Fort Lauderdale where she caught a Continental flight to the Bahamas. Sink's husband, Bill McBride, owns a condominium unit with Republican real estate mogul Gary Morse and the couple spent a long weekend there. Sink's calender reads: "Alex time.'' The staffer returned to Tallahassee. The total cost of the flights: $3,135. The cost of diverting the plane to Fort Lauderdale: $248.
Was this an official use of the state plane? The Department of Management Services did not directly address the question of whether those Sink trips were legal. DMS cited language in state law that allows the spouse or children or state officials to travel "when such official is traveling for official state business and the aircraft has seats available."
As for the trip to catch a flight to the Bahamas, DMS again cited statutory language that says only agency heads, like Sink, can authorize plane use. It likely would be up to the Commission on Ethics, acting on a complaint, to determine if Sink strictly followed the law.
Sink was asked if she thinks it's legit if she's in Miami and they stop on the way back to Tallahassee. Her answer was yes: "We're heading in the right direction.''
Example 2, Alex Sink:
On Friday, Jan. 9, 2009, seven Sink staff members flew from Tallahassee to Miami to meet Sink. The CFO had breakfast with the Palm Beach County state attorney and attended a meeting of her Safeguard Our Seniors (SOS) Task Force. Then the group everyone flew to Tampa where the plane picked up Sink’s husband, Bill McBride, before they flew on to Tallahassee. Cost: $10,150. Cost of the Tampa diversion: $2,461. The state charged her $273 for her husband's flight.
Example 3, Bill McCollum:
On Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009, an empty plane flew from Tallahassee to Sanford and picked up McCollum, who then flew to Miami. He spoke to the Coral Gables Bar Association and met with executives of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, which his office says led to a $21 million settlement for overcharged cruise passengers. The plane took McCollum back to Sanford before going empty to Tallahassee. Cost: $9,841. Cost of the diversion to Sanford: $1,200.
Correction, Alex Sink:
Our Thursday story incorrectly stated that the state plane on which Sink traveled was diverted twice to Tampa to drop off and pick up her son at a cost of $2,925 to taxpayers. In fact, the plane was diverted once to pick up Bert McBride on June 13, and the extra cost to taxpayers was $324. Sink
reimbursed the state for the cost of her son's travel. Bert McBride took another flight to Tampa on the state plane with his mother June 15, but Sink had an event in Tampa and the plane would have flown there anyway, so there was no extra cost to taxpayers.