Panel decides not to impeach Sanford
12:00 pm
Wed December 9, 2009

Panel decides not to impeach Sanford

The saga of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford may soon be coming to an end. A panel of state lawmakers voted against impeachment today, but still sent the Governor a strong message that they're unhappy with him. WFAE's Julie Rose was there and joins us live from Columbia.

Julie, what was the final vote?

Julie: It was six to one against impeachment and basically came down to this sentiment from Representative Garry Smith:

Smith: "While I think the actions of the governor were in some cases seriously stupid, I do not think they rise to the level of serious misconduct."

Mark: Seriously Stupid, but not serious misconduct? And inorder to impeach, they needed to find serious misconduct, right?

Julie: Yes. And it's not like they didn't try to find evidence of that. This panel spent over two weeks going over those 37 ethics charges against Sanford in detail. Then they debated the 2008 trade trip to Brazil where the Sanford visited his mistress on a side trip to Argentina. Then they went back to the issue of dereliction of duty and debated whether or not the Governor left the state in a lurch when he disappeared for that five day trip to visit his mistress in June of this year.

And in all of that, they found nothing to merit impeachment. And the other big issue for the panel was whether or not they really wanted to spend any more time on this issue when they know the majority of South Carolina voters would rather they focus on the economy or other pressing concerns. That was clearly on Representative James Smith's mind at the meeting:

"This Governor is not quite yet, but soon to be part of our past. And I don't want to spend the months ahead having him to do any more damage to this state by occupying our time and resources with his utter failure to understand the responsibility he has to lead the people of the state."

Mark: So only one lawmaker on the committee felt like impeachment was worth going forward with - and that was Representative Greg Delleney who filed the impeachment resolution. What did he have to say about the vote?

Julie: Well he wasn't pleased and he was actually a bit surprised that none of the other committee members voted with him. He really believes the governor intentionally mislead the public with the story about hiking on the Appalachian trail when he was actually in Argentina. And Delleney believes Sanford should be held to a higher standard. If you're the Governor, can't just disappear for five days and expect to keep your seat.

Today's vote was also disappointing to Senator Jake Knotts. You could say he was the lawmaker who started this all when he raised the alarm back in June that the Governor had gone missing. He sat in on today's panel.

"I thought it was wrong then, I think it's wrong now. But we have a process we have to go through and this is the process we have to go through and I just sorta hate the the process has failed the people of South Carolina."

Mark: Is impeachment dead, then?

Julie: Not officially. The full House Judiciary committee could overturn the panel's vote when it meets next week. But the chairman of that committee thinks that's unlikely. Instead, they're preparing a resolution to censure Sanford and let him - hopefully - serve out the last year of his office without further controversy.

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