CREATED Nov. 20, 2012
LEE COUNTY - An update now on a Fox 4 investigation.....for years, Lee County taxpayers have picked up the tab so county officials could own a private plane. Now, after our report....it appears commissioners will be grounding the plane for good. Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason broke the story and has the latest.
After Fox 4 found tax dollars being spent so county officials could own a private plane....many viewers were upset.
Frank Mann: "An airplane is a very expensive luxury."
Now newly elected commissioners Larry Kiker and Cecil Pendergrass say they will likely support Frank Mann's decision to sell the plane.
Frank Mann: "If you have wasted dollars out there that don't need to be spent then they shouldn't be spent."
A Fox 4 investigation found two years ago taxpayers paid out more than ten thousand dollars on commissioner's flights and last year, the cost was over nine thousand dollars......and those are your tax dollars.
We also found the Lee County Port Authority returns the plane to Fort Myers each night. So every time a county official or staff member needs to spend the night somewhere the pilot flies solo back to Paige Field ....and then picks them up the next day.
Mike Mason: "Is that a waste?"
Larry Kiker: "That seems insane, it absolutely sounds insane."
We questioned the Port Authority about this.
Vicki Moreland: "Standard operating procedure for this airplane has been to return it back to the Port Authority."
Mike Mason: "I'd like to find out if that has always been sop and, in writing, can I see it, like that's your policy?
Vicki Moreland: "Yes, I can get that for you."
But the Port Authority now tells us this overnight policy is an oral instruction to the pilot and is not a written SOP. Frank Mann says it's a waste of money.
Frank Mann: "You shouldn't be owning your own plane and paying the insurance on it and the pilots on it and the overtime on it and all the other expenses that are related to it, it's very expensive to own an airplane."
The Port Authority reports to the Lee County Commissioners. They will meet in January to discuss the plane, both Kiker and Mann say they plan to make the motion to sell the plane at that time.