DETROIT (FOX 2) - The Republican chairman of Michigan’s House Oversight Committee on Thursday sent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer 43 questions about a trip to visit her ailing father in Florida, saying further investigations may occur if she does not answer within a week.
The Democratic governor has come under scrutiny for using a jet owned by prominent business executives and largely covering the cost with Michigan Transition 2019, a nonprofit fund that was initially established for inauguration events. The tab was $27,521, with Whitmer personally paying $855 of that amount.
JoAnne Huls, Whitmer’s chief of staff, said the account defrays the governor’s travel costs when they are consistent with the fund’s purposes.
Wayland Rep. Steve Johnson’s inquiry came a day after a conservative group, Michigan Rising Action, filed a complaint with the IRS alleging that Whitmer’s personal March 12-15 trip fell outside the purpose of the account, which is to "promote the common good and general welfare of the residents of, and visitors to, the state of Michigan and to lessen the burdens of government." The organization’s payment for the chartered flight was a private benefit to the governor, according to the filing.
Huls has said the flight complied with the law and was not paid for at taxpayer expense. Whitmer has said she did work as governor during the trip.
"When a family member of mine needs a little help, though, I’m going to show up," she said last week.
Johnson wants to know details such as who else was on the plane and whether there was any official or state purpose for the travel. A lack of details has dogged Whitmer since the trip was revealed in April.
"These questions are both reasonable and important to giving the people of Michigan certainty that their governor is following proper procedures and acting within the bounds of the law," Johnson wrote in a letter.
Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy said her office would review the letter, which it had not received yet. A message seeking comment was left for a lawyer for Michigan Transition 2019, which functions under the name Executive Office Account.