Monday, January 04, 2010

South Carolina State records not being preserved

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Location Oakland, Ca - Private Investigator

Records of S.C. officials and agencies are available to the public, right?


State and local governments have applied patchwork standards to preserving records, e-mails and other documents. In some cases, those governments have ignored guidelines set out by state archivists.

Former Governors Jim Hodges, David Beasley and Carroll Campbell flew first class or business class on foreign trips, including one in which Hodges used a Concorde supersonic jet to return from France, according to records released Wednesday by Gov. Mark Sanford’s office.

Sanford has been under fire for traveling business class. The records show officials of the state Department of Commerce or its predecessor agency bought either first-class or business-class tickets 230 times since 1984.

In some cases, memos in the records discuss ticket upgrades. In others, the tickets were first class or business class because of the price, according to Sanford’s office.

Former staffers for Gov. Mark Sanford said they routinely used private e-mail accounts to discuss sensitive political and policy decisions with Sanford.

The governor’s office denies the practice was used to shield those communications from the public.

The state’s Freedom of Information Act makes any discussion of state business on state computers a public document.

S.C. Department of Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor attempted to track down Gov. Mark Sanford via e-mail and cell phone in June of 2008 รข€” the day the governor has admitted to seeing his Argentine lover as their relationship turned physical.

“Need contact number for (Sanford) ASAP,” Taylor wrote in an e-mail to a Sanford staffer at 7:19 p.m. on June 28, 2008.

The e-mail was one of more than 3,300 pages of e-mails released Wednesday evening to The State newspaper and other media under the state’s open record laws.

Gov. Mark Sanford agreed Thursday to remove the last hurdle to a long-delayed House of Representatives impeachment investigation of his travel and campaign expenses.

Sanford's attorneys said they planned to turn over a disputed State Ethics Commission investigative report to the House, likely early next week. House leaders have been waiting to review the report, which has been shielded from the public, before allowing impeachment hearings to begin.

Sanford's attorneys provided some insight into the months-long ethics investigation Thursday, disclosing the commission has questioned about three-dozen instances of Sanford's travel and use of campaign funds.

In other cases, public officials have defied the law.

The issue came to light during this summer's scrutiny of Gov. Mark Sanford's travel and campaign records. Questions about Sanford's activities led to scrutiny of past administrations and lawmakers.

Reporters and attorneys digging through state archives found that many records no longer existed.

The S.C. Department of Archives and History recommends which records should be preserved. But director Eric Emerson said his agency does not have the staff to make sure state agencies are complying with the rules.

Among the public records that public officials said were no longer available:

E-mails | Gov. Sanford's office provided thousands of pages of e-mails to reporters after his June trip to Argentina. But Sanford's office refused to comply with a Freedom of Information request, saying staff members no longer worked for his office and their e-mails were not preserved. In one case, the staffer still was working for Sanford when the request was submitted.