Until this summer, Sanford rarely dodged security

cleblanc@thestate.comOctober 25, 2009 

Gov. Mark Sanford rarely ditched his security detail at the Governor's Mansion until one week before he slipped from view for a then-secret meeting with his Argentine lover.

The State newspaper examined handwritten security logs kept at the mansion's gates since Jan. 1, 2008.

The logs show Sanford left or entered the gates 15 times without a security officer with him during 2008.

But in the first 5 1/2 months of this year, he slipped security 35 times - and only four of those came before June 11, the records show.

Sanford drove from the mansion June 18 to catch a plane from Atlanta to Buenos Aires, where he spent five days with Maria Belen Chapur. Sanford would later confess a yearlong affair and describe the divorced mother of two as his "soul mate."

In July, The State reported that Sanford left or entered the mansion grounds 38 times without security in 2008, and 39 times in the first few months of this year.

His staff challenged the numbers, saying the newspaper had miscounted.

Sanford chief of staff Scott English said his examination of the logs showed that single trips were double-counted because the newspaper did not distinguish front-gate entries from back-gate records of the same trips.

English repeatedly declined to provide what he considers an accurate count.

The tally the newspaper published in July was based on 160 pages of logs provided by the Department of Public Safety in response to an open-records request.

After The State met with the governor's staff, it requested about 470 additional days of logs for a fuller review.

The logs are not exact records of Sanford's movements in and out of the mansion.

Entries at the front and back gates often vary from one or two minutes to as much as 17 minutes for the same arrivals or departures.

The State found occasions when daily logs had the wrong dates or an officer did not chronicle comings and goings because he or she was too busy with a major function on the grounds.

But overall, the logs provide at least some means of tracking the first family's movement in and out of the mansion while under the watchful eyes of the security detail.

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

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