By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 25, 2009 5:09 PM
The security detail for South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was actively searching for him over the weekend and concerned about his safety, but getting the runaround from his staff in trying to contact him, the director of the state's law enforcement agency said in an interview this afternoon.
Sanford asked his protective detail to "stand down" at 1 p.m. last Thursday at his mansion, and then drove off alone in a state law enforcement sport-utility vehicle, the director said. But agents weren't concerned until they heard a rumor Saturday that the governor had been spotted speeding on a South Carolina interstate in an SUV.
Reggie Lloyd, director of the state Law Enforcement Division, told reporters today that his agency, which operates the governor's protective detail, first tried reaching the governor's top staff without luck. The agents then tried to remotely check devices inside the vehicle to pinpoint its location but discovered that those tools were turned off, Lloyd said.
The state agency the same afternoon sought telephone company records to determine where Sanford might have been when using his cellphone and found he had last made a call some days earlier in the Atlanta area. Much later that day, Lloyd said, Sanford's chief of staff assured the agency that there was no reason to worry.
"At some point during the course of all of this, we were able to talk to his chief of staff. He passed along the fact that the governor was okay. They said they were attempting to reach him about this story, they knew where he was, he was okay," Lloyd said.
Sanford admitted yesterday that he had had an affair with a woman in Argentina, speaking at a rambling news conference after returning from a mysterious five-day absence over Father's Day weekend. He made his confession soon after he was confronted by a local news reporter as he arrived at the Atlanta airport from Argentina. His staff had earlier reported that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.
The director said the security detail also did not accompany Sanford when he traveled last year to Buenos Aires on a state-paid Commerce Department trip. A statement by Sanford today, plus copies of his e-mails and state trip records, revealed Sanford met with the Argentine woman for a romantic rendezvous on the state-funded trip.
It wasn't unusual for Sanford to ask for his security detail to leave him alone for a few days, Lloyd said.
"As an adult male, he's free to come and go as he pleases," said Lloyd. "There were times when he would want to get away. He's been in office 6 1/2 years. He very much values his time away from the office. It had become routine enough that it was not suspicious."
Sanford's travels to Brazil and Argentina cost taxpayers at least $9,000 in airfare, lodging, meals and phone charges, according state records.
He led a delegation of state government and business leaders to Sao Paolo from June 21 to 23, 2008, for meetings with Brazilian government and business officials and briefings from U.S. Embassy personnel.
The governor, South Carolina Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor and some members of the delegation then traveled on June 24 to Cordoba, Argentina, for a two-day hunting trip, according to state Commerce Department spokeswoman Kara Borie.
Sanford then departed alone for Buenos Aires on June 25, where he was joined by a project manager with the state Commerce Department. In Buenos Aires, Sanford met with U.S. Embassy personnel on June 25, then with Argentine business leaders and Buenos Aires provincial governor Daniel Osvaldo Scioli on June 26. After a day of sightseeing on June 27, he returned to Columbia, S.C., on the morning of June 28.
An official familiar with Sanford's Buenos Aires trip and meetings said he appeared normal and engaged during the appointments but could provide no details about any of the governor's unofficial engagements. The state Commerce Department worked with the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires to schedule all but one of Sanford's meetings, according to the official. Embassies regularly schedule such appointments for visiting government or business delegations.
Sanford said in a statement today that the business development trip was "entirely professional and appropriate," while also acknowledging meeting his mistress during it. He pledged to reimburse the state for the full cost of the Argentina leg of the trip.
"This trip was handled very professionally by the [South Carolina] Department of Commerce, and I'm proud of their work there," Sanford said.
Staff writer Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report.