Records show state resources used to benefit of first family
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) —
The state of Oklahoma has a special aircraft that is reserved for use by the governor and records obtained by FOX 25 show that the governor’s family sometimes travels on the plane even if she is not on board.
FOX 25 requested records from the governor’s office in the summer of 2015 about her staff’s interaction with some of the Fallin family members in response to a tip we received. It took two-and-a-half years for the office to respond. When it did the governor’s office provided more than 8,000 pages, many of them duplicates, about the interactions between the governor’s staff and the first family.
After reviewing the emails, FOX 25 found references to use of the state’s aircraft to take family members to Grand Lake where Fallin has another home. In one email from 2013 a state trooper asks if “the "lake" is confirmed for Friday” when talking about the upcoming flight.
Another staff member confirms that the state's King Air 350 airplane will be dropping the governor off at her lake house in Northeastern Oklahoma on her way back from an out-of-state trip. The emails indicate the governor’s daughter, accompanied by one staff member, would be ferried back to the city on the private plane.
The flight from Grand Lake to any airport in the metro area is just under an hour of flight time. According to the website “Aircraft Cost Calculator” it costs just over $1,300 an hour to operate the governor’s private plane.
Another flight manifest from December of 2015 shows the governor, her husband and their security detail being dropped off at Grand Lake, again after another out-of-state trip, but two of the couple's children were to be taxied back to Norman on the $1,300 an hour taxpayer-funded flight.
Multiple records show Christina Fallin often joined her mother on trips, sometimes staying in her mother’s hotel room. They do not always fly together, but in one email a state trooper asked if they will again be asked to escort the first daughter to her mother.
"I presume the gov [sic] wants a detail member to go pick her up right?" the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lieutenant asked.
In that one case, the governor’s staff said Christina had made other arrangements and did not need a taxpayer funded escort.
However, the emails reviewed by FOX 25 show the Governor’s staff were routinely asked to step in on personal favors for the first family. Some of these favors related to getting seats at private events the governor was attending or arranging for gubernatorial proclamations or letters be issued to family friends and acquaintances.
In one case, concern about one of Christina Fallin's friends led, then, chief of staff Denise Northrup to email an extensive list of legal background information about that friend to the Governor's, then, general counsel Jennifer Chance.
Chance emailed the legal research to her husband's law firm. Another lawyer who worked in the same office as her husband would go on to represent the Fallin family friend.
In an email to FOX 25, Northrup, who is now the head of OMES, said she did not do the research on the clock and was only acting out of concern as a friend of the Fallin family. However the records show she emailed Chance, and Chance forwarded the email during normal business hours.
In a statement to FOX 25 about the research into one of Christina Fallin’s friends, the Governor's office said it discouraged the use of state time and resources for personal projects.
FOX 25 has also asked the governor’s office early Wednesday morning how many trips to the Governor’s lake house she has used the state’s private plane for and how many times members of the first family flew on the state’s plane when the governor was not on board and if the Fallin family had reimbursed the state for any of the trips. The governor’s office acknowledged receiving our request, but as of the publication of this story Wednesday evening the office had not responded.