A nonprofit group tied to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration financed most of the charter flight when she visited her father in Florida at a time when the Democrat's administration was urging residents not to travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
JoAnne Huls, the governor's chief of staff, made the announcement in an unaddressed email memo on Friday, according to a Detroit News report which noted that the disclosure raised questions about the financial arrangement.
"Due to ongoing security and public health concerns, we made a decision to use a chartered flight for this trip," Huls wrote in the memo. "The governor's flight was not a gift, not paid for at taxpayer expense and was done in compliance with the law."
Michigan Transition 2019, a social welfare nonprofit organization that state business records show was formed in late 2018 to assist in funding Whitmer's inauguration, chartered the private plane, which brought her to Florida on March 12 and returned her to Lansing on March 15.
On April 5, Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services issued an advisory warning residents that travel could increase the risk of spread of COVID-19.
The organization spent $27,521 on travel during the first 14 days of May, the voluntary disclosure revealed, which covered the March flights. Whitmer paid the nonprofit group $855 for her seat on the flights, according to Michigan Information & Research Service News, which first reported about the arrangement.
Republicans said the disclosure was troubling and warranted more explanation.
"Tonight's revelations raise additional questions and concerns surrounding the financial arrangements of Gov. Whitmer's secret, unvaccinated trip to Florida on a private jet," said Ted Goodman, a spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party.
Whitmer has insisted the previously disclosed travel was for an "important family reason." The Democrat claimed the flight was "not a gift" and "not paid for at taxpayer expense."
Huls said in her Friday memo that the health of Whitmer's father, Richard, began to deteriorate after she returned to Michigan on March 15. The chief of staff added that on Monday the governor took her father to Ann Arbor for a medical procedure to begin intravenous antibiotics and that it was a success.
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