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      Auditor challenges Highway Patrol's plane purchase

      A new audit questions whether the Missouri Highway Patrol was justified in buying a new airplane that is frequently used by Governor Jay Nixon.State Auditor Tom Schweich said the patrol did not do a formal written analysis before purchasing the King Air 250 last December.Tom Schweich, Missouri State Auditor said, â??If you have a family and you're deciding whether to buy a new car, the first thing you decided is, 'do we need a new car?' then you decide, 'if we need a new car, do we decide a brand new on or a used one.' The Highway Patrol didn't do either of those analyses before they went out ant bought a $5.6 million dollar plane in tight budget times.â??Moreover, the audit contends Missouriâ??s existing passenger fleet was already underutilized.Schweich said, "We looked at the utilization of the five passenger planes that the state owns and we found that there were no days when all five passenger planes flew."A patrol spokesman said only two airplanes are large enough to transport state officials to functions.

      Capt. Tim Hull, Missouri Highway Patrol Spokesman said, "Checking with the pilots, we've had to turn down flights to other state officials, to our officers during investigations because the plane's not available. You have to take ground transportation. So we do know we've had to turn those down. We've done a thorough analysis on that. "

      Records obtained by the Associated Press show that Nixon was the only state official to use the new airplane during the first three months of this year.