Friday, October 19, 2012
Earlier this month, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley repaid about $10,000 for using state planes to attend news conferences and bill-signings, after The Associated Press informed her of a rule against that.
Now, State Rep. Carl Anderson — seeking reelection next month — is coming under some fire for his use of a state plane in March.
According to documents from the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission, Anderson used a state plane on March 14 to fly from Columbia to Georgetown to attend the groundbreaking of the church he pastors, Greater St. Stephen AME.
The church was destroyed by fire last year and is being rebuilt on Highmarket Street.
The flight to attend the ceremony cost taxpayers $935, according to the documents. Anderson, on the forms, states the trip was “for the official business of South Carolina.”
Anderson defended the plane use Tuesday when asked about it by the Georgetown Times.
“I used it to attend an event in my district,” he said. “On the day in question, the House was in the middle of a heated budget debate and I had a groundbreaking to officiate back home in the district that afternoon. When I asked the Speaker to leave session for a few hours, House staffers suggested that if I traveled in the state plane instead of my personal vehicle I could be present for several more hours of this important debate.”
Anderson’s opponent, petition candidate Tom Winslow, said he does not understand how a groundbreaking at Anderson’s church is official state business.
“I would like to hear his explanation of what occurred,” Winslow said, adding he feels since it is Anderson’s church he could have scheduled the groundbreaking at a time the House was not in session, such as a Saturday or Sunday, so a plane would not have been needed. “I really don’t think I want to see taxpayer dollars used to pay for flights for me to attend a groundbreaking ceremony at my business.”
Anderson said he had no control over the schedule of the ceremony. That, he said, was put together by the office of the bishop of the AME denomination in the state.
“That was the only day available in that time frame the bishop could attend,” Anderson said. “If had been my scheduling, it would have been on a different day.”
He said if the ceremony did not take place March 14, it would have been months before Bishop Preston Warren Williams II could have attended. He was the main speaker at the event.
“The state plane exists to aid state officials in the efficient execution of their duties, and such travel is routine in circumstances where legislators are working under time constraints,” Anderson said. “Working on the budget is one of the most important things that the Legislature does. Balancing the time constraints of being in session with constituent events is challenging, but I take my commitment to serve very seriously. I am confident that the voters will agree with me that this was an appropriate use of the state plane.”
The Georgetown Times sought comment from the House Ethics Commission on the matter Tuesday but had not received a response by press time.
By Scott Harper