A subcommittee of the South Carolina House of Representatives met Tuesday to begin a process that could result in the impeachment of Gov. Mark Sanford. The panel is charged with determining whether impeachment should be recommended to the full House Judiciary Committee. (Audio: 30 min)
Today, according to subcommittee chair Rep. James Harrison, the group gathered to take care of “a little bit of housekeeping, but we have two basic things: we have the governor’s absence and the items that were included in the ethics report. As of today, the members have not had a chance to receive the ethics report; they have received it today. This will give them time to review that over the Thanksgiving holidays and we will then begin to address those issues that are included in that report.”
The ethics report comes a separate investigation than today’s impeachment process. State Ethics Commissioners decided there was probable cause to have hearings on the governor’s travel spending. Commissioners agreed on 37 charges against the governor. Those charges will be taken into account in the following weeks of impeachment consideration.
Ethics Commission summary list of allegations (PDF)
A contingent of attorneys for Gov. Sanford observed the panel discussion. The governor was not there. After the proceedings, one of his attorneys issued this statement:
“The Legislature today began an extraordinary and extremely rare process. Only eight governors have been impeached and removed from office in the history of the United States, and only two in the last 80 years * both of whom were indicted on felony charges. The Ad Hoc Committee must decide whether there is clear and convincing evidence that the Governor committed a serious crime or serious misconduct in office that has corrupted the system of government in South Carolina. This standard is intentionally high.
“The Governor’s temporary absence from the state in June does not meet this high standard. As was pointed out in the hearing this afternoon, the state Constitution ensures that the chain of command in state government is not threatened because the Lt. Governor is automatically transferred command in the event of an emergency during the governor’s temporary absence.”
– Ross Garber, attorney for the Office of the Governor
The House Judiciary Subcommittee will meet again on December 1, 3 and 7. The date of December 9 has also been set aside in case the time is needed.