Records: CFO Sink flew family members on state-owned plane

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s chief financial officer may have made extra stops on the state plane to pick up or drop off family members while conducting state business, travel records show.

Flight logs show that while Alex Sink and staff were traveling to the capital from West Palm Beach in January, the plane stopped in Tampa for 20 minutes. No one got off, and only Sink’s husband, Bill McBride, got on the plane before taking off again.

Similarly, McBride was with Sink and staff members in Boca Raton in October 2008. On the way back to Tallahassee, the plane stopped in Tampa for five minutes, where McBride got off and the rest of the passengers continued to the capital, records show.

Sink’s office didn’t dispute the records, but would not comment on whether the Tampa stops were scheduled solely to pick up and drop off family members.

“The rare times a family member has been on the plane, the CFO proactively paid the state for the cost of travel,” said spokeswoman Kyra Jennings.

Jennings also pointed out that Sink pushed for more transparency in use of the state plane, leading to the flight logs being posted online by the Department of Management Services.

“We have a responsibility to increase openness and transparency in Tallahassee, and making this travel information available to the public continues this commitment,” Sink said in May when she asked DMS to post travel logs.

Records also show that in June 2007, Sink and staffers flew to Orlando, and on the way back stopped in Tampa, where her son, Bert McBride, got on the plane for the trip back to Tallahassee. Two days later Sink and staff members left Tallahassee, stopped in Tampa, where her son got off the plane, and then continued to Orlando, records show.

In April 2007, Sink flew from Miami to Tallahassee, stopping in Tampa where Bill McBride and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair got off the plane during a 15-minute stop.

Sink is a Democratic candidate for governor in 2010. She hopes to replace Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for Senate. Attorney General Bill McCollum is the only major Republican seeking in the governor’s race.

“It’s shocking that the Chief Financial Officer who is the self-proclaimed watchdog of the taxpayers’ money would use the taxpayers’ money in such a manner, what appears to be a pick-up and drop-off service for family members,” said Matt Williams, McCollum’s campaign manager.

State law says use of the plane “shall be available for official state business only as authorized by agency heads.”