Governor Mark Sanford’s disappearance last week to Argentina to see his mistress developed questions of unconstitutionality after the governor failed to communicate his location to anyone. He left his wife, four sons, and the state. Calls for his resignation have been thrown around in the General Assembly, but the South Carolina’s Constitution does not currently declare this kind of trip a violation of law. House Speaker Bobby Harrell says something needs to change.
“I don’t know that you should prevent the governor from doing that. This isn’t so much ‘can the governor go be out of pocket?’ as it is ‘who’s in charge when he’s gone?’ It seems to me, you have a lieutenant governor, if the governor needs to go for some reason, he can simply transfer power to the lieutenant governor when he’s gone and take the power back when he gets back,” says Harrell.
After Sanford admitted to his affair, he stated that he would reimburse the state for funds he used during a government trip to Brazil and Argentina in 2008. During that time, the governor did meet with Maria Chapur, his mistress, so he insists on paying the money back. Harrell says the openness of Sanford’s scandal has caused possible problems for South Carolina’s business.
“I think the gray lining is all of the bad publicity we’re getting around the country that’s not good for our state, being a tourism state, trying to attract business and industry here to deal with the unemployment rate. It doesn’t help any of that. Certainly a good point to fix that in the law and I expect that we will,” says Harrell.
In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press, Sanford admitted to seven meetings with Chapur in the past eight years, the first one in 2001. Sanford does; however, say he used his own money for two trips he made to New York to meet with her.