Georgia taxpayers billed $12,000 for Gov. Nathan Deal’s press flight to Augusta | The Augusta Chronicle

27
Feb

Georgia taxpayers billed $12,000 for Gov. Nathan Deal’s press flight to Augusta | The Augusta Chronicle

Two weeks after he was widely criticized for failing to prepare Atlanta for snow, Gov. Nathan Deal spent more than $12,000 in taxpayer money to fly members of the media with him to Augusta in a separate helicopter to survey ice damage, according to government documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle.

The bulk of the funds used for the Feb. 13 trip – $11,180 – paid for the 417 gallons of fuel the Georgia National Guard needed to transport the seven Atlanta journalists and 200 pounds of gear they brought to Augusta, according to a reimbursement request filed by the Department of the Army.

An additional $920 was billed to the state to pay the two crew chiefs and two pilots commissioned to fly the Black Hawk helicopter at the request of Brian Robinson, the governor’s deputy chief of staff for communications.

Deal flew in a six-seater owned by the state Department of Public Safety that required 140 gallons of fuel and cost taxpayers $630 to transport him, a pilot and four staff members, including the state chief operating officer and budget director. The Augusta Chronicle attempted to get a seat on the governor’s flight once it arrived but was told there was no room.

Robinson defended the use of taxpayer funds for the 3-hour roundtrip flight, saying that “one of the most important parts of the government’s response in an emergency situation is communicating with the people of Georgia.”

State Democrats immediately seized on the trip to challenge Deal’s use of taxpayer funds for what they call a public relations mission after being blasted for how he handled the Jan. 28 snowstorm that stranded thousands of people on highways and in schools.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay $12,000 for the governor trying to rehabilitate his image through increased exposure,” said Vincent Fort, the No. 2 Democrat in the state Senate. “It’s not right and the money should be reimbursed by the governor’s campaign.”

Robinson said the purpose of the Augusta trip was not to restore credibility to Deal’s office, which accepted much of the blame for Atlanta’s snow-induced traffic jam, but to tour the ice damage along the Interstate 20 corridor.

He called coverage of the ice storm that hit Augusta harder than any area in Georgia as “one of statewide import” that required the attention of the media with the “greatest reach possible.”

via Georgia taxpayers billed $12,000 for Gov. Nathan Deal’s press flight to Augusta | The Augusta Chronicle.

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