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Aide: Fund created after Whitmer’s election paid for trip

May 15, 2021 GMT
File-This April 12, 2021, file photo shows Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer talking about the statewide COVID-19 vaccination effort during a press conference, in Ypsilanti, Mich. Whitmer is facing renewed scrutiny after reports that she used a private plane shared by high-powered, politically connected Detroit-area business families to visit her elderly father in Florida in March. (Lon Horwedel/Detroit News via AP, File)/Detroit News via AP)
File-This April 12, 2021, file photo shows Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer talking about the statewide COVID-19 vaccination effort during a press conference, in Ypsilanti, Mich. Whitmer is facing renewed scrutiny after reports that she used a private plane shared by high-powered, politically connected Detroit-area business families to visit her elderly father in Florida in March. (Lon Horwedel/Detroit News via AP, File)/Detroit News via AP)

DETROIT (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s private round trip to Florida to see her ailing father was paid for from a fund that’s used for travel not covered by tax dollars, her chief of staff said Friday.

The cost was $27,521, with Whitmer personally paying $855 of that amount, according to the Michigan Transition 2019 website, which lists donations and expenses. The nonprofit was initially formed for inauguration events.

The lack of details has dogged Whitmer since the March trip was revealed in April.

“As chief of staff, I acknowledge we could have done a better job of answering questions about this trip with more clarity while also balancing the need to protect the governor’s security, and for that I take responsibility,” JoAnne Huls told senior staff in a memo.

Whitmer left Michigan on March 12 and returned on March 15.

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“She continued to carry out her duties as governor while she assisted her father with household duties like cooking and cleaning. ... The governor’s flight was not a gift, not paid for at taxpayer expense, and was done in compliance with the law,” Huls said.

The Associated Press last week confirmed flights to West Palm Beach using aviation-tracking website Flightradar24. The Gulfstream 280 business jet is registered to Air Eagle, whose agent is John Nicholson, executive vice president of Detroit-based PVS Chemicals, according to state records.

On May 7, when asked who paid, Whitmer said: “I’ve said everything I’m going to say about my trip to go check on my father. It was a quick trip. It was an important family reason for doing it, and I’ve got nothing to add.”

She said her office does not discuss her travel because of an “incredible number” of death threats. A group of men is charged with plotting to kidnap her over her coronavirus restrictions.

Huls said Whitmer took her father, Richard Whitmer, to a medical procedure Monday at the University of Michigan.

“Mr. Whitmer’s procedure was successful, and we are hopeful that his condition improves,” Huls said.

Tori Sachs, executive director of the conservative group Michigan Rising Action, said the use of a nonprofit to help pay for Whitmer’s personal travel is “shady and makes it clear why she tried to hide the trip and cover up who paid.” She called for an investigation.

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Associated Press writer David Eggert in Lansing contributed to this report.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez