COLUMBIA — Two state lawmakers Friday called on Gov. Mark Sanford to voluntarily resign. They also requested a law enforcement investigation into the governor’s recent activities.
But the State Law Enforcement Division, which received the request, said it does not believe a criminal investigation is appropriate.
“To date, we don’t have anything that suggests a crime has been committed,” SLED chief Reggie Lloyd said Friday. “So far, there is nothing that would even allow us to launch a criminal investigation.”
Lloyd said most offenses require criminal intent. Still, agents will review the legislators’ request for an investigation, he said.
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Meanwhile, Sanford repeated Friday that he has no plans to resign and is getting back to work after a nearly weeklong hiatus to Buenos Aires to visit his mistress.
The two lawmakers, state Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, and state Rep. Joe McEachern, D-Richland, said in a Friday press conference that a SLED investigation is needed to determine whether Sanford misused state money during trips to Buenos Aires and whether his absence from the country constitutes serious misconduct, both impeachable offenses under the state Constitution.
The two lawmakers said they are not interested in the Republican governor’s extramarital affair, which he confessed to Wednesday.
“The big picture isn’t his love affair,” said Knotts, a longtime Sanford critic who compared the governor to a rat caught in a trap. “The big picture is the governor left this state without anyone at the helm to lead it.
”We got a governor that is out of control and we need to make sure the people of South Carolina are protected and their pocketbooks are protected,“ said Knotts, an ally of Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who would become governor if Sanford resigned.
Several Democratic lawmakers also have expressed the wish that the governor step down, including state Reps. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, and Bakari Sellers, D-Orangeburg.
A handful of Republicans also say Sanford should resign, including Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester.
”I think (Sanford) should take the same sage advice (and resign) that he gave Bill Clinton because they’re in the exact same situation,“ said Delleney, referring to then-President Clinton’s extramarital affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. ”They both misled people and then lied about it.“
Another Democrat, state Rep. Boyd Brown, D-Fairfield, requested that Attorney General Henry McMaster, a Republican who hopes to succeed the term-limited Sanford, conduct a grand jury investigation into the matter.
In a subsequent statement, McMaster expressed ”confidence“ that SLED, which reports to Sanford, could conduct any investigation necessary.”If there is anything we don’t know or if there is any credible evidence that any laws have been broken, then appropriate action should be taken,“ McMaster said.
”However, criminal investigations should never be politically inspired. I hope all sides will resist attempting to use the investigative and prosecutorial powers of law enforcement for political purposes. Mixing politics and law enforcement is never a good idea.“
Staff Writer Cliff LeBlanc