Reporters, attorneys and state officials wait for the Ethics Commission to wrap up an executive session in the investigation into Gov. Mark Sanford’s travel spending. The commission is deciding whether there is enough evidence to, in essence, indict Sanford for breaking state ethics laws when he travelled or accepted gifts of travel. Stakeholders are eager to find out what, if anything will be revealed from today’s closed door session.
The confusion stems from a Supreme Court opinion issued earlier this month that says the governor waived confidentiality in this investigation and that the public will see the final results when he gets them.
However, the court also stated:
To permit a respondent’s waiver to include the Commission’s work product and internal investigative process would chill the Commission’s ability to thoroughly investigate a complaint. The policy reasons for maintaining the confidentiality of the Commission’s work product (especially during the investigative process) are self-evident and compelling. Governor Sanford’s waiver here, of course, reaches all documentation to which he is entitled. Otherwise, we respect the Commission’s authority in the first instance to determine what matters and documentation are subject to the Governor’s waiver, which the Commission can make in ruling on the Governor’s pending motion for an injunction. See Brown v. Bi-Lo, Inc., 354 S.C. 436, 440, 581 S.E.2d 836, 838 (2003) (“[T]he Court generally gives deference to an administrative agency’s interpretation of an applicable statute or its own regulation.”).
This appears to give the Ethics Commission the discretion to decide how this report will be shared with the public and the legislature, but the commission and the SC House Speaker Bobby Harrell have both asked the high court for clarification. As of today, the Speaker’s office had not heard back from the court.