Sanford impeachment resolution begins journey through S.C. House

The State (Columbia, S.C.)November 18, 2009 

A state panel will decide as early as today whether there is sufficient evidence to try Gov. Mark Sanford for violating state ethics laws in his travel and use of campaign money or to refer his case to prosecutors for possible criminal charges.

The nine-member State Ethics Commission, meeting behind closed doors, will weigh evidence against the governor gathered by commission investigators. The panel's conclusions could prove critical as to whether lawmakers pursue removing Sanford from office.

Republican state representatives filed an impeachment resolution Tuesday, charging fellow Republican Sanford with abandoning his duties when he left the state on a secret five-day June trip to visit his mistress in Argentina.

But House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said, based on what he knows now, Sanford should not be forced from office.

"Unless the investigation contains new information about serious crimes or serious misconduct by the governor," Harrell said in a written statement, "the information we have to date does not rise to a level to remove him from office."

Ethics Commission director Herbert Hayden said the agency could announce as early as this afternoon whether it will act against Sanford or if the case against him has been dismissed.

The commission will review the evidence and could decide to charge Sanford with ethics violations, setting a date for the hearing. Sanford can choose to make that hearing public, which can include the presentation of evidence, witnesses and testimony.

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