COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) – Gov. Mark Sanford’s attorney asked the state Supreme Court to block release of an ethics commission’s findings to state lawmakers until its investigation is complete. Premature disclosure of the preliminary findings would hurt Sanford’s ability to “fully and formally lay out his side of the story,” his attorney said. Sanford has been waging a public-relations campaign across the state, meeting with a different Rotary club nearly every day and releasing details of previous governors’ travel practices and expenditures.
Sanford’s attorney Butch Bowers asked Supreme Court Clerk Daniel Shearouse on Wednesday not to release the panel’s findings until the ethics panel is done with the report.
“To do otherwise, as contemplated by the [Ethic Commissioner’s] executive director, would not only represent a premature and prejudicial release of the commission’s findings – but violate the law and any standards of due process and fair play,” Bowers wrote.
The commission is looking at Sanford’s use of state aircraft, whether some of his overseas flights violated state law when he flew business class rather than coach, whether he was required to disclose some flights on private aircraft provided by friends or family, and why his campaign reimbursed him for some of these flights.
Sanford’s travel came under scrutiny after he returned from a mysterious, five-day trip to Argentina in June. Sanford, who is married, admitted he had had an affair with an Argentine woman.
State lawmakers have said they are waiting for the Ethics Commission report before deciding whether to proceed impeach the governor.
Sanford in August waived his right to keep the existence of the probe and the details of the complaint secret, saying he wanted the public to know what was going on, because he believes in transparent government.
His lawyers say Sanford still wants the report’s findings made public when the investigation is complete.
That is supposed to happen by the end of the month. Commissioners then will decide whether there is probable cause to believe Sanford violated any laws in his travels.
Herb Hayden, executive director of the commission, said the decision to share the report with legislators is based on state law which allows the commission to share such a report with prosecutorial officials. Since legislators are talking about impeachment they would be considered prosecutorial officials, Hayden said.