Mark Sanford

Investigation into Sanford case struggles to gain steam

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford talks with Department of Moter Vehicle staff Tuesday, July 21, 2009, in Greer, S.C., as he makes his first public appearance since he spoke with The Associated Press of his extramarital affair. Gov. Sanford says it's time for him to put aside discussions of his extramarital affair and get back to work governing the people of South Carolina.(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford talks with Department of Moter Vehicle staff Tuesday, July 21, 2009, in Greer, S.C., as he makes his first public appearance since he spoke with The Associated Press of his extramarital affair. Gov. Sanford says it's time for him to put aside discussions of his extramarital affair and get back to work governing the people of South Carolina.(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

A Senate finance subcommittee investigation into whether Gov. Mark Sanford misused state funds is off to a rocky start.

Sen. David Thomas, R-Greenville, who chairs a three-person finance subcommittee said he'll hold the first organizational meeting Friday to discuss the scope of an investigation.

But other lawmakers say an investigation is premature.

Thomas said he wants to dig deeper into how many trips Sanford has taken during his term, how many times he ditched his SLED security, his first-class airfare trips and whether Sanford misspent public money in the process.

While a SLED investigation that wrapped up earlier this month found Sanford did not break the law on trips to visit his Argentine lover, "SLED only looked at a very narrow scope," Thomas said. "There's more that needs to be examined."

SLED Chief Reggie Lloyd has said the investigation was based on self-reported information the governor provided.

In order for the committee to dig further than SLED, it likely would need subpoena powers, giving the committee the authority to compel Sanford and staffers to speak publicly about travel, likely under oath.

Senate Finance Committee chairman, Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, would have to agree to have the committee vote on such powers.

So far Leatherman, the General Assembly's chief Sanford foil, has not committed to such a vote.

Those close to him say it's unlikely Leatherman will do so unless more questionable activities by Sanford come to light.

One of Thomas' two subcommittee colleagues is not convinced either that now is the time for an investigation.

"I'm thinking that David is a little premature on calling any meetings until the full finance committee meets or (Leatherman) tells us to get started (with an investigation,)" said Sen. John Land, D-Clarendon, Senate Minority Leader and a Sanford critic.

Land, who won't attend Friday's meeting because he is on vacation, said he wants to wait and see what else the media finds before agreeing to an investigation that could be perceived as a fishing expedition.

"Plus, the summer time is a hard time to get everybody together," Land said. "We should wait until September at least."

The third member of the subcommittee, Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken, a Sanford ally, is on vacation this week and did not immediately return calls.

Reach Smith at (803) 771-8658.

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