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Aeronautics Commissioner Blames Legislators For Illegally Taking $3 Million

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An Oklahoma aeronautics commissioner accuses legislators of illegally taking $3 million from the commission's revolving fund.

Tom Stephenson, vice chairman of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, wrote a letter to Sen. Brian Bingman and other legislators blaming the legislature for illegally taking $3 million from the commission's revolving fund. Stephenson said the legislators “took the money to fill gaps in the state budget.”

In the letter, Stephenson said the money was taken “without proper authority, to spend in areas not associated with aviation promotion or safety and airport infrastructure.”

News 9 spoke with Stephenson, and he said the commission revolving fund is essentially its “rainy day fund” and is “money generated from airports for the use and benefits of airports.”

Stephenson also said, “(He) Probably won't pursue legal action… hopefully the issue will be resolved.” At the end of the letter, Stephenson wrote to Sen. Bingman, “I am respectfully requesting that you and your fellow legislators to return the $3 million… to avoid future problems.”

At the beginning of the letter, Stephenson made it clear, “This letter is not a position of the commission, but only my own.”

In a statement to News 9, Director of the Aeronautics Commission Victor Bird said, “While the Commission is disappointed the money was taken from the fund and will work hardships on the commission's budget, I sincerely don't doubt the legality of the Legislature's actions. The funding is directed to be used by legislative action and can be taken by legislative action.”

Calls to Sen. Bingman have not been returned.

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