Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak has crisscrossed the state in state-owned aircraft on his mission to educate the public and reach out to constituents.
As a result, Doak is the top statewide elected official using state-owned aircraft, behind Gov. Mary Fallin. The costs billed to his agency are $3,462.
His predecessor, Kim Holland, did not use state-owned aircraft to travel, according to the Department of Public Safety.
Doak said he is the only insurance commissioner to visit each of the state’s 77 counties each year.
He said the voices of people in Grove, Antlers and Woodward are just as important as those in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Fallin, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and Doak are the only statewide elected officials to use state-owned aircraft.
Lamb used the aircraft on June 5 to travel to western Oklahoma. The cost was $2,264, according to DPS.
“The criteria for usage of state aircraft by the lieutenant governor include the availability of state aircraft, while maximizing his time on behalf of Oklahoma and striking the balance of safety, security and time efficiency,” said Ashley Kehl, a Lamb spokesman.
Doak, who has been in office two years, said his use of state-owned aircraft is infrequent. He said he only uses the plane when it is available and when he travels to multiple counties.
Doak used state-owned aircraft in April to view damage caused by a tornado.
He said he didn’t travel with Fallin because they were not on the same schedule.
Other trips included speaking engagements and meetings with chambers of commerce, local leaders, insurance agents and consumers.
Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, criticized Doak after the insurance commissioner purchased shotguns, body armor and police cars for his anti-fraud unit. Two Chevrolet Tahoe four-wheel-drive vehicles and five Dodge Chargers – all equipped with a “police equipment package” – cost a total of $170,960. The equipment was bought with money from the department’s anti-fraud revolving fund, which comes from fines, settlements, fees and penalties.
Coates, a pilot, said Doak is trying to promote himself rather than serve as a regulator.
Doak disagreed with Coates’ characterization.
“I am a statewide elected official, which is a job I take very seriously,” Doak said. “I will continue to serve the people of Oklahoma and meet with them around the state.”
Coates said there needs to be legislation specifying when statewide elected officials can use state aircraft.
Lt. George Brown, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said the state has seven Cessna-type planes, one King Air reserved for the governor and her staff, and two helicopters.
He said his agency does permit travel for statewide elected officials and agency heads.
He said the aircraft are used to promote the agency’s mission to protect the public.
“At this point, it hasn’t compromised the mission, but we don’t want to get to that point,” Brown said.
He said the agency has turned down one request by Doak because a pilot was not available.
Brown said Doak’s office inquired about using the King Air but was told it was reserved for Fallin and her staff.