Cover Story: Gov. Sanford - panel votes not to impeach

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WBTV) - South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford will likely not be impeached.  But he will be censured -- or publicly reprimanded.

The governor spoke about the house subcommittee's decision and said he's looking ahead to the future.  He said, "It is my goal and aim to finish strong, to make these last 13 or 12 months as absolutely as productive as possible."

There is one lawmaker who says this isn't over, that there is still a chance Sanford could be impeached.

The full House Judiciary Committee meets at the State House next Wednesday, 25 members as opposed to the 7 lawmakers at last Wedneday's meeting, and they could decide to move the impeachment process along.

One lawmaker from our area will be trying to do that.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee selected to hear the impeachment resolution against Gov. Sanford came to the fifth and final hearing today apparently with their minds made up.

No governor in South Carolina's 233 year history has ever been impeached.  A fact that weighed heavily on committee members' minds.

"I don't believe that this rises to the Constitutional standard," says committee chairman state Rep. Jim Harrison, a Republican of Columbia.

"I think the the decision that we make today should not be prompted by public opinion," said Rep. David Weeks, a Democrat from Sumter.

At issue-- Sanford's leaving the state for five days last June for a secret rendezvous with his lover in Argentina without even telling members of his own staff.. whether than amounted to a dereliction of duty.. a misconduct in office.. which supporters say could be an impeachable offense.

Sponsor of the impeachment resolution, Chester county representative Greg Delleney said it is.

He says, "What we have here is a pre planned international trip. A pre-meditated intentional act. We have a governor forsaking.. abandoning.. deserting his office."

Lawmakers had already decided to throw out all but five of 38 ethics commission charges brought against the governor.. saying the alleged offenses didn't rise to the level of ouster.. apparently paving the way for today's committee decision.

6-to-1 against impeachment.

State Representative Jenny Horne, a Republican of Moncks Corner says, "Nevertheless South Carolina is a proud and strong state with a rich history of determined resolve in the face of adversity. She has already begun to heal in spite of the past six months of humiliation."

Rep. Jenny Horne getting choked up over how the Sanford affair has affected the state.

The House Judiciary subcommittee voted unanimously to censure Sanford.. it carries no penalty but the move recognizes that although Sanford has about a year left in office his governorship is basically dead.