Sunday, June 13, 2004

Utility won't take pay for flying Justice Rehnquist



The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A utility has declined payment for using its jet to fly U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist to Columbus for the dedication of the Ohio Supreme Court's new building.

Accepting the $3,800 payment would break Federal Aviation Administration rules that prohibit a private party to charge for use of an aircraft, American Electric Power spokesman Pat Hemlepp said.

The jet was used to shuttle Rehnquist, 79, between Washington and Columbus on May 15. Security issues and Rehnquist's health problems made a commercial flight impractical, court officials have said.

The fuel costs were supposed to be covered by a luncheon after the dedication ceremony in which 542 people paid $75 apiece. Instead, $3,800 was donated to the American Red Cross.

Rehnquist delivered a 15-minute speech during the dedication ceremony.

The propriety of the flight was questioned by a watchdog group, Ohio Citizen Action, because AEP is being sued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department. The government claims the utility violated clean air laws. The case could reach the Supreme Court.

But Hemlepp and Ohio Supreme Court spokesman Chris Davey said use of the jet was not a conflict.

No tax dollars were spent at the $62,920 dedication of the 15-story judicial center.




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