RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - The North Carolina Democratic Party is requesting records from the Governor's office following a WBTV investigation into the governor's use of the state plane.
On Your Side Investigates discovered Republican Pat McCrory's frequent trips to Charlotte and the state's Western Residence in Asheville has cost taxpayers nearly $60,000 in flight time on state airplanes.
On Your Side Investigates reviewed the two years of flight records and flagged any flight that could have been avoided had McCrory stayed in Raleigh: flights with no passengers, flights that carried McCrory's staff but not the Governor either coming to pick him up or going back to Raleigh after leaving him in Charlotte, or flights that included the Governor but that would have been unnecessary had he stayed in Raleigh.
Our review found 125 flights that fit the criteria: 48 flights with no passengers, 49 flights on which at least one member of the Governor's staff was aboard without him and 28 flights that included McCrory.
Records show McCrory flies on one of two state airplanes owned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Typically, records show, McCrory flies on a King Air-200 twin-engine turbo prop airplane that costs $560 per hour to operate. Records show McCrory also uses the state-owned Cessna Citation II jet that costs $770 per hour to operate.
Invoices provided by the Governor's Office shows the 125 avoidable flights flown by state-owned jets at McCrory's request cost taxpayers $59,605 in just flight hours, not including additional fees associated with individual airports.
Flight manifests show McCrory took a total of 316 flights in 2013 and 2014.
Following our investigation, the Democratic Party requested records "pertaining to taxpayer funded flights for trips that may have included political fundraisers for the McCrory campaign."
"While the McCrory administration has failed to release itemized reimbursements for political travel, at least four McCrory campaign fundraisers appear to have coincided with state flights in 2015," the NCDP said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "However, last year the McCrory administration used security protections to make state flights less transparent. In the time since, the administration has failed to report any reimbursements, including for the first quarter of 2016."
Hours before the WBTV investigation aired on television, a statement was emailed to WBTV defending McCrory's use of state airplanes.
"The Governor is proud to visit his home and office in Charlotte. The current manner of using state aircraft is the most efficient and lowest cost option when it comes to expense and man-hours," press secretary, Graham Wilson said. "Not only does it cost substantially more to keep the aircraft and crew at a specific location overnight, but it prevents that flight crew from being available to fly other missions for the rest of that duty day."
A review of aircraft manifests provided by McCrory's office shows an airplane used by McCrory was also used by staff from another agency six days in 2013 and 2014. Of those six days, only three of them saw state personnel use the state airplane for official business after the plane was used by McCrory.
"North Carolina taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for Pat McCrory jetting around to re-election fundraisers. We know from recent reports that Governor McCrory has billed taxpayers for over a hundred unnecessary flights," said NCDP Chair Patsy Keever. "This is about basic transparency: the governor needs to release these records and show North Carolina families if they are funding his campaign travel."