SLED chief warns against using agency for political probes

COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's law enforcement chief expressed frustration today over "mischaracterizations" of the controversy surrounding Gov. Mark Sanford and warned against using his agency to probe allegations against politicians.

Reggie Lloyd, director of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, said a review of Sanford's travel documents revealed no improper spending and no violations of the law. At the request of Attorney General Henry McMaster, Lloyd's agency had looked into the question of whether the governor had broken the law or used taxpayer dollars to further his extramarital affair with a woman from Argentina.

The SLED chief stressed that his agency conducted a "review," and not a "criminal investigation."

"Nobody every brought us any facts or evidence to suggest any laws had been broken," Lloyd told reporters.

"This is pretty much unprecedented."

"When you ask the criminal law enforcement agency or a prosecutor to go prove that you did something or you didn't do something, when nobody brings in one shred of fact suggesting that you did, that's pretty dangerous territory."

This week a growing number of legislators have been calling for Sanford to quit, but the Republican governor has rebuffed their efforts.

His spokesman, Joel Sawyer, said in a statement, "We're pleased that SLED has concluded its review, which confirms what we've said from day one, (that) no public money was used in relation to the governor's admitted marital infidelity. This issue is behind us once and for all."

The director said Sanford went beyond what was expected in cooperating with law enforcement.

"We wouldn't have had probable cause to ask him for his personal documents, but he gave them to us, and he agreed to not only give them to us but to avail himself and answer any questions," said Lloyd.

When questioned about whether his findings were credible, given that Sanford had hired him, Lloyd said the point has been made repeatedly and he was tired of it.

"It really has aggravated me," he said. "The governor cannot fire me, whether we found something or not. ... Sometimes fairness just means standing up and saying, 'There's nothing there.'"

Lloyd said Sanford had paid the state a sum of money to cover his state business trip to Brazil and Argentina, even though he was not required to do so. During the trip the governor admitted to visiting his mistress, Maria Belen Chapur.

A reporter challenged Lloyd on whether any other state employee would have been allowed to simply apologize and pay back the money.

"Let's be clear about something," replied the director. "Those are the kind of mischaracterizations that (start) the public's misunderstanding about what's going on. He was on a business trip, and what he did on his personal time is his own business."

Exasperated, Lloyd told reporters, "Look guys, this isn't the Worldcom scandal. This isn't Bernie Madoff."

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