Governor Mark Sanford is back at work after two weeks of travelling in Europe on a personal trip with his family. The governor’s professional travel, and how much it involved personal business, is still under scrutiny by a state senate subcommittee. Greenville Senator David Thomas, for the past two weeks, has been operating as almost a subcommittee of one as he gathers documentation about Sanford’s trips out of the state and country.
“We got information that just has arrived in our office from the comptroller general,” said Thomas. “We’re still awaiting information from the governor’s office. We’re going to be requesting information from various other agencies about other expense issues that may have been incurred by the state that we have questions about whether or not it was legitimately for state business.”
This investigation by the Senate Finance Subcommittee partly stems from the governor’s admissions that he saw his Argentine mistress while on state business. He paid back the travel costs on one trip. Thomas says his subcommittee staff is in what he calls an “extensive information gathering mode”. According to Thomas, “It may take more time than I thought it was going to take.
“My hopes were that we could have a mixed committee meeting in late September or early October but you can’t make the agencies respond to faster than they, basically, can get information back.”
The Senator says that only the full committee has subpoena power. Only the staff has been working to accumulate and filter the travel data. Thomas says, right now, he is not directly working with the other two committee members; fellow Republican Greg Ryberg of Aiken and Democrat John Land.
“There’s been none because no action has been taken that would require their input,” he said. “As we discussed at that very first meeting, the thing that we are trying to do is outline exactly where we’re going and that’s going to take an accumulation of data to start with.
“So there is nothing to communicate to anybody yet.”
Thomas responds to statements he has heard from Ryberg from Senate Finance Chairman High Leatherman. “He spoke of our efforts as being, ‘premature’. Both of them used those words and I don’t know if they wanted to slow down the process but to analyze it at any point and time you’ve got to get your information together and that’s how it could be a multi-week process.”
He says in another 30 days he’ll be able to determine how far along they are. Thomas says this is his responsibility as chair of the committee that oversees the governor’s spending. “It there is a failure on my part to do it I’m negligent too. I think I’m doing what I have to do,” said Thomas.