South Carolina's highest court has deferred a decision on Gov. Mark Sanford's request to keep an investigative report secret, instead asking attorneys on both sides for more information.
Late Wednesday the court asked attorneys for Sanford, the House of Representatives and the State Ethics Commission to argue in writing whether Sanford waived his right to confidentiality in an Aug. 28 letter to the Ethics Commission released to the public. Sanford wrote the letter to open to the public the Ethics Commission investigation into his use of state and private planes as well as campaign funds.
"It's an effort to once again go the extra mile, I would like to waive my confidentiality in your upcoming Ethics probe," Sanford wrote to the agency. "It's also my hope that my decision to take the unilateral step of waiving confidentiality will encourage both the public to invite, and legislators to lead, in changing the current system."
In considering Sanford's request to prevent the Ethics Commission from releasing its investigative report, the court wrote Wednesday that justices may need to rule on the breadth of Sanford's waiver.
Monday, Sanford attorney Kevin Hall told the court during oral arguments that the letter referred to narrowly negotiated terms with the State Ethics Commission, and only allowed Ethics to acknowledge the investigation and its scope.
Justices peppered Hall about the letter during the court hearing, asking if Sanford's public waiver was "grandstanding" if it depended on a private, narrow agreement with the Ethics Commission.
Sanford has argued that the investigative report, which would present evidence about whether Sanford should be charged with ethical or criminal violations or be absolved, could undermine his ability to defend himself if given to lawmakers considering impeachment.
Hall declined to comment Wednesday. Efforts to reach Ethics Commission director Herb Hayden were unsuccessful.
Sanford has until Monday to respond, with the Ethics Commission and the House responding five days later.