COPY-State Supreme Court hears gov's ethics challenge

COPY-State Supreme Court hears gov's ethics challenge

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For the second time in five months, the Supreme Court convened on Monday to settle a Sanford legal dispute: whether the state Ethics Commission should be allowed to give House members investigative material on Sanford's air travel.

Sanford's side says no.

"All investigations, inquiries, hearings and accompanying documents must remain confidential until final disposition of the matter," said Kevin Hall, Sanford's attorney.

But the governor's legal team almost immediately came under critical fire from Chief Justice Jean Toal and the court.

"From the get-go, it was known publicly that Governor Sanford's issues were being sent to the Ethics Commission, wasn't it?" questioned Justice Toal. "Well what was known publicly is that the attorney general had a request that the Ethics Commission conduct an investigation."

The governor's argument is framed by concerns about protecting the integrity of a system designed to promote good government.

Critics believe Sanford is more interested in preventing House members from using the information to jump start an impeachment proceeding.

Charles Reid represents the House.

"The question is, does the House's constitutional authority over impeachment qualify it as a prosecutorial authority pursuant to the statute in the regs and it's our position that it does," said Reid.

The justices noted several times that Sanford had made headlines in late August, calling for an open investigation and is now arguing in court the confidentiality of the ethics process must be maintained.

The ethics probe has been underway for weeks, but is not over and no report exists at this time.

"The commission's investigation of Governor Sanford is ongoing," said Ethics Commission attorney Cathy Hazlewood. "It is not complete. No one knows when the investigative report will be done."

The court did not indicate when it would rule on Monday's arguments.

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