COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) – The South Carolina Supreme Court asked attorneys for Gov. Mark Sanford to explain why his request to open to the public an Ethics Commission probe into his travel spending should not also allow state lawmakers access to the panel’s preliminary findings.
The state Ethics Commission has been looking into Sanford’s travel expenditures since mid-summer, after he disappeared and then reappeared in June and admitted having an affair with an Argentine woman.
The Ethics Commission is focusing on Sanford’s use of state aircraft, his reporting of private travel expenditures, and his use of state and campaign funds.
Shortly after the probe began, Sanford wrote the Commission, waiving his right to confidentiality. Sanford maintains he’s done nothing inappropriate as regards travel; he has taken pains to cast his expenditures against those of former governors.
But more recently, he asked the state Supreme Court to prevent legislators – many of whom as planning to file impeachment charges against him, perhaps as early as next week – from receiving a preliminary report from the commission.
That report, expected to be released in its entirety shortly before Thanksgiving, will outline the case, if any, against Sanford, and the evidence supporting it.
Sanford claims that releasing preliminary findings would undermine his defense.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal asked Sanford’s legal team to explain how the waiving of confidentiality does not apply to the preliminary work product of the commission.
Toal has issued an order of clarification, giving the governor five days to explain whether his letter was intended as a total or limited waiver of confidentiality.
Those who oppose Sanford’s stand will then have five days to respond to his explanation, after which he’ll get a final two days to address their statements.
That schedule means legislators won’t have the ethics panel’s preliminary findings when they convene for a special session on Oct. 27 to extend jobless benefits for the unemployed.
State Rep. Greg Dellene, R-Chester, has said he plans to introduce articles of impeachment during that session. However he’s also indicated he doesn’t expect it to be debated or acted upon at that time.