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Statements from Gov. Sanford's staff sought in inquiry

A South Carolina legislative panel says statements from staffers and others will help determine whether the governor should be impeached for his clandestine trip abroad in June.

November 25, 2009|Mcclatchy Newspapers

Columbia, S.C. — A group of South Carolina House lawmakers wants sworn statements from Gov. Mark Sanford's staff and others, detailing the events leading up to his five-day disappearance in June.

Those details, they say, will help determine whether Sanford should be impeached for his secret trip to visit his lover in Argentina.

The seven members of a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee met for the first time Tuesday to consider a resolution to try the two-term Republican governor. They hope to wrap up their work by Christmas and send a recommendation on impeachment to the full Judiciary Committee.

The subcommittee also voted to delve into 37 charges made by the State Ethics Commission, including claims that Sanford used campaign cash and state aircraft for personal reasons. The State Ethics Commission plans to hold hearings on the charges early next year.

Under the state Constitution, Sanford must be guilty of a serious crime or other serious misconduct to be impeached.

Sanford's attorneys have said repeatedly that the governor's disappearance does not rise to the level of impeachment nor do the ethics charges, which they have deemed "minor" and "technical."

Republican Rep. F. Gregory "Greg" Delleney Jr., a chief sponsor of the resolution and a member of the subcommittee, made an impassioned speech during Tuesday's meeting, contending that Sanford, commander of the South Carolina National Guard, had abandoned his post, which constitutes a dereliction of duty.

"The lieutenant governor was not aware of the governor's absence from the state of South Carolina, and during his absence there was no established chain of command," Delleney said.

But fellow subcommittee member Rep. Walton J. McLeod, a Democrat, disagreed with Delleney's military analogy.

"The governor is a civilian, so this military language about 'dereliction of duty' and 'AWOL' " might not apply, he said, adding that, for practical matters, the state's adjutant general oversees the Guard.

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