I got followup information today from the State Police on my inquiry about the frequency with which Lt. Gov. Mark Darr uses State Police transportation to travel from him his home in Springdale to his work in the Capitol.
State officials are not supposed to be reimbursed for commuting expenses (it amounts to a pay supplement) and Darr has gotten some unflattering attention for travel costs he’s charged both to his campaign and his office. He hasn’t taken questions on what business purposes these charges were for if not for commutes between home and office.
Last week, Darr had service of a trooper for Springdale all day for a drive to Little Rock and back home again. He appeared at an event at the Capitol in honor of a state wildlife officer who died during a flood rescue attempt.
Bill Sadler, spokesman for the State Police, said it’s hard to get a precise accounting of Darr’s use of the State Police because he doesn’t have a permanent assigned security detail as the governor does. The state statute does allow for use of State Police security for the lieutenant governor and family “as necessary”
Sadler said that in talking with troopers who’ve driven Darr or were familiar with this needs, it appeared he’s only used State Police auto transport “three or four time” in 2013. One of those times was for assistance in reaching the Capitol during the legislative session when snow or ice made travel difficult. Sadler couldn’t further itemize the other trips.
Sadler said Darr had made use of a State Police airplane on one occasion. Sadler said a trooper had driven Darr and his son from Little Rock to a football game at UAPB on Sept. 3. Then the State Police plane — a Cessna 206 that seats four or five, not the agency’s big King Air — was used to fly Darr and his son to Springdale.
The State Police doesn’t explain why individual decisions are made to provide transportation services for Darr. He drives himself on most occasions. As to the plane flight, Darr’s communications director, Amber Pool, said the State Police had told his scheduler that it would be more cost effective for the agency to use a plane to take Darr to Springdale rather than to use a trooper to drive him there. Indeed, the roundtrip would have been more than a full day’s work for a trooper. But Pool said she couldn’t explain why State Police transport was necessary rather than Darr using his own vehicle to drive himself home. I wondered if the attention to use of expense accounts for commutes had prompted him to seek a cost-free alternative on the occasions he needs to be in Little Rock.
The State Police has provided transportation on periodic occasions for past lieutenant governors, Sadler noted.