The S.C. State Law Enforcement Division decided to limit a June review of Gov. Mark Sanford’s travel spending to only five trips, even though Attorney General Henry McMaster had requested a full review of the governor’s travel records.
Since that time, the Associated Press has cited several abuses of gubernatorial perks that suggest Sanford broke the law, including charging taxpayers for the governor’s opulent first-class flights and high-end hotel stays as well as questionable personal use of state airplanes.
On Thursday, the City Paper started inquiring about the SLED review. The same day, McMaster made a fresh request for the State Ethics Commission to investigate the governor’s travel records.
Upon returning from a five-day trip in June to see his Argentinian mistress, Maria Belen Chapur, Sanford admitted to a year-long affair and to deceiving his staff and state officials by claiming that he was going to hike the Appalachian Trail by himself. Soon after, the governor reimbursed the state for more than $3,000 spent on a 2008 economic development trip to Argentina seemingly orchestrated to see Chapur.
That was then followed by Sanford’s embarrassingly frank interview with the Associated Press, which included admissions of more rendezvous with his “soul mate” and indiscretions with other woman. A candidate for governor in 2010, McMaster had been resistant to an investigation, but he reversed course after the interview.
“In light of the governor’s disclosure of additional travel today, I have requested that SLED conduct a preliminary review of all Gov. Sanford’s travel records to determine if any laws have been broken or any state funds misused,” McMaster said in a press release.
Instead of a review of all travel, SLED looked at five specific trips related to the affair, based on financial documents and information provided by the governor. The July 2 report from SLED Chief Reggie Lloyd, a Sanford appointee, was that the governor had not used public money for those specific trips.
In SLED’s defense, the limited review seemed to have satisfied McMaster. In a written statement to The State newspaper, the attorney general said that he had no reason to doubt SLED’s conclusions.
But the questions lingers over why SLED decided to limit its review. SLED spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said Thursday that the division was asked to review only those dates in question. But a copy of the AG request obtained by the City Paper includes no specific limitations, only a general request for a preliminary review of the governor’s travel records.
Timmons later clarified that SLED had focused on those five dates because of the “collective” concern of several public officials regarding specific trips relevant to the affair. But she could not say for certain who at SLED made the final decision to refuse McMaster’s request for a full review and she said Chief Lloyd was not available.
As for whether the Associated Press reports have swayed SLED officials to expand their search, Timmons said, “We didn’t and still don’t at this time have enough probable cause to review or investigate.”
Also Thursday, Senate leader Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) called on Sen. David Thomas to end his one-man fact-finding mission. Thomas had held a single meeting of his subcommittee tasked with overseeing the governor’s spending and released a report earlier this week suggesting Sanford had violated state law in regards to the exorbitant trips cited in the Associated Press report. According to The State, McConnell suggested that a House or Ethics Commission inquiry was more appropriate.
Stay cool. Support City Paper.