Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Easley sends plane for funeral guest

Former Republican Gov. Jim Martin got a free ride to Jesse Helms' funeral Tuesday -- courtesy of Democratic Gov. Mike Easley.

Easley's office offered Martin a ride aboard the jet the governor often uses on state business. Flight records show the Cessna Citation picked Martin up in Concord in the morning and flew him back after the funeral.

"I was happy to accept that, it saved a couple hours each way," Martin said. "I thought it was a nice gesture."

The two round-trips took less than two hours, according to flight records. The 8-passenger plane costs $770 per hour to operate, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Commerce, which owns it. Martin appeared to be the lone passenger.

Easley spokesman Seth Effron said the Democratic governor offered the plane "as a matter of protocol and professional courtesy to the former governor because this was a matter of state.”

Former Gov. Jim Holshouser also attended the funeral, as did other mourners from Charlotte.

Asked how taxpayers might view the trip, Martin said, "If taxpayers would object to that, it probably won't happen again. But I thought it was very thoughtful of (Easley)."

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