JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri State Senate Thursday delayed confirmation for a gubernatorial appointment over an airplane lawmakers say they were never told about.
Governor Jay Nixon had nominated acting Commissioner of Administration Douglas E. Nelson to become the Office of Administration's full-time head, but that process is now at a standstill.
According to the Associated Press, the Highway Patrol recently purchased a King Air 250 airplane for the governor's use. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Senator Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he was concerned that Nelson, as the acting Commissioner of Administration, had approved the purchase without consulting the legislature. Schaefer and Senator Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, a former House Budget Committee chair, said no request for such an aircraft had ever been brought to their committees. They said the Highway Patrol commander never informed them the purchase was taking place.
"I think there needs to be some discussion about what was the purpose, why was it necessary, before people feel comfortable signing off on a check of that magnitude," he said.
Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal, D-University City, said the Highway Patrol did nothing wrong buying the aircraft. She said the governor needs to be able to travel safely in order to bring jobs to Missouri.
"Our governor does have the responsibility to work to advocate for more jobs," Chapelle-Nadal said. "Not just around the state, but across the country and across the world."
Scott Holste, Gov. Nixon's press secretary, refused to comment on the aircraft and referred all questions about it to the Highway Patrol, who he said was responsible for the purchase.
Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Captain Tim Hull said the Highway Patrol bought the plane so it would have a second aircraft in case the current one was unavailable. Hull said the larger plane allows more room to transport passengers and cargo, reducing the need to leave people behind at the airport. Hull said there have been instances when the plane was unavailable and the state had to use the Jefferson City Flying Service. He said the plane is available to any state official on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Associated Press reports the plane cost about $5.6 million and is manufactured by Hawker Beechcraft. The company's website says this model has a range of more than 1,600 nautical miles and has a maximum cruising speed of 310 knots, or 356 miles per hour.