Misuse of state-owned resources for personal catering business reviewed

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COLUMBIA — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s chef has been barred from catering private events at the Governor’s Mansion complex and told to reimburse the state after an Associated Press investigation questioned whether he was using his position for financial gain.

Rob Godfrey, a spokesman for the governor, said Wednesday that Geoff Sandi­fer used state-owned kitchen appliances, linens, serving utensils and a computer for a side business and that the matter has been reported to the State Ethics Commission. Godfrey said the governor’s office discovered the use of state resources after looking into the matter because of AP’s inquiries.

The AP reviewed 2,000 pages of e-mail and other documents produced in response to a Freedom of Information request. The e-mails show an aide to Haley’s husband, Michael, who oversees the mansion, recruited business for Sandifer, while Sandifer made it a point to play up his role as the governor’s chef when courting clients.

The records also show Sandifer routinely used his e-mail account to conduct and recruit business day and night. Godfrey said there’s no indication Sandifer used food ordered on the Governor Mansion accounts.

Godfrey said Sandifer “has been ordered to stop using any state resources to conduct any non-state business. Additionally, he is no longer catering on mansion grounds and he will fully reimburse the state for the cost of using state resources.”

The 31-year-old Sandifer, who reports to Michael Haley, now has to get approval before doing outside catering work, Godfrey said.

Godfrey wouldn’t make Sandifer or Emily Brandenburg, the mansion complex coordinator who referred business to Sandifer, available for interviews. Sandifer didn’t respond to an e-mail or phone messages Wednesday.

State Ethics Commission Executive Director Herb Hayden said state ethics laws bar people from using their public position for financial gain for themselves or businesses with which they’re associated. That includes using e-mail accounts.

Hayden said that each event Sandifer handled could bring a $2,000 fine if the work generated $50 or more for him or his business.


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