If a basketball team only hit 16 of its 309 shots from the field — an agonizing shooting percentage of 5.2% — fans would likely be livid not just at the players but at the coach. And yet, of the 309 flights on state aircraft taken by former Gov. Matt Bevin and Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton over a 3½-year period, only 16 billed to the governor’s office documented the purpose of the flight.

A report, which reviewed the usage of state aircraft by the state’s top two leaders between January 2016 and September 2019, released by state Auditor Mike Harmon on Thursday found that the majority of flights were on aircraft operated by the Kentucky State Police. While state law protects law enforcement flight activities by keeping them confidential, flights transporting government officials do not require the same level of privacy, Harmon explained.

“Unlike flights for law enforcement purposes, protection from disclosure requirements shouldn’t extend to the use of taxpayer owned and funded aircraft by their elected leaders for both official and non-official business,” he said.

Of the 309 flights — which cost more than $800,000 — 289 were operated by the state police and none had a documented purpose.

Though he wasn’t required to do so by law, Bevin’s administration created an allocation form to document the percentage of official and nonofficial flight time in order to calculate reimbursement costs for nonofficial flights. However, those forms were not shared with KSP or the Transportation Cabinet, which Harmon said would have “offered an added layer of transparency in the process.”

We agree with the auditor. There needs to be more accountability and clarity when it comes to how state aircraft is used by elected officials.

We urge legislators to come up with a more consistent way to disclose the purpose of flights taken by the state’s top elected leaders on taxpayer-funded planes.

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