Originally created 02/19/03

Sanford to keep mansion open



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The Governor's Mansion will stay open this year, thanks to cost-cutting and $100,000 in private donations, Gov. Mark Sanford says.

"My wife tells me we have enough money," said Sanford. Last week he said the mansion might close because its budget had been nearly exhausted.

The Sanfords have reduced some full-time positions to part-time slots. They also are hosting more official guests for breakfast, which is cheaper than dinner and drinks.

Sanford said he and his wife Jenny have appreciated gifts ranging from $10 checks from retirees, to grits for the rest of the year from the Adluh Flour Co., to $5,000 gifts from businesses.

The governor said he was glad he didn't have to make "a choice I didn't want to make."

Sanford had considered closing public areas of the mansion through June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The Republican governor said his predecessor, Democrat Jim Hodges, spent almost all the money allocated for personnel, food and supplies.

The General Assembly appropriated $265,860 for payroll and $252,455 had been spent by Feb. 1. The operating account, for items from food to cleaning supplies, was given $69,000 and $66,000 had been spent by Jan. 15, the day Sanford took office.

Hodges said the mansion is always short on funding and governors traditionally transfer money from other accounts they control.

Sanford refused to move money from other programs, such as foster care management, to cover the mansion's day-to-day costs.

A private Mansion Fund had raised $100,000 from individuals and companies to shore up the mansion's budget by Monday.

Jenny Sanford estimates she will need another $20,000 to make budget through the end of the year. The Sanfords made their payroll Saturday for the 11-employee staff, but Jenny Sanford said they will rely on private donations to make the March 1 payday and pay further expenses, including food.

She convened the first meeting of the new Mansion Commission on Monday, with a tour of the mansion, the Lace and Boylston houses on the complex, and the icy 9.5-acre mansion gardens.

The governor appoints commissioners to oversee mansion operations. Three of the seven commissioners, including the first lady, are newly appointed.

The commission approved reopening the Lace and Boylston houses and gardens to rent for private functions.

Until the mid-1990s, individuals were able to rent parts of the complex for weddings, teas or receptions. The commission stopped the practice during the renovation of the Statehouse and mansion.

Jenny Sanford said she hopes reopening the houses will make the complex more visible to the public.

The mansion commission is considering asking decorators to take on the design of rooms in the Boylston and Lace Houses, and charging admission for touring them.

The panel is also looking at bringing state prison inmates back to work in the mansion. Hodges quit using the trustees after guards were charged with allowing inmates to have sex on the mansion grounds and in the governor's temporary residence.