When a Highway Patrol trooper told a driver Tuesday that there was no good reason for him to blaze down a busy stretch of South Carolina interstate at 85 mph, he got a surprising reply: "Tell him that."
Video from the trooper's dashboard camera recorded the incredulous trooper as he strides to the side of the governor's unmarked sedan, a window rolls down and then, a handshake. "Mark Sanford," the governor introduces himself.
Lance Cpl. R.S. Salter returned to his patrol car and its camera captures the sedan pulling away. The governor's driver did not get a ticket.
But a day later, state Department of Public Safety Director Mark Keel had reviewed the video and the trooper was writing a ticket for the State Law Enforcement Division agent driving Sanford. And the SLED agent's boss wasn't happy.
"He did something that I thought was totally inappropriate, from the standpoint of the trooper, as well as the governor," SLED Chief Reggie Lloyd said. Now his agency will investigate to see if the agent would be punished. "I think we as an agency owe Trooper Salter, as well as the governor, an apology."
Lloyd would not name the agent but said he is still on duty and is regularly assigned as part of the governor's detail.
In all, the roadside stop lasted about a minute as Sanford's car pulls off the highway with its own blue emergency lights flashing in the rear of the vehicle. As Sanford's driver approaches the patrol car and pulls out his badge, Salter asks: "You got a good reason for running 85?" The agent responds he's driving Sanford.
"Not a really good reason to be speeding," Salter replies.
"Tell him that," the agent says, walking back to his car.
The governor's schedule included an economic development announcement in Gaffney in the morning and a speech in Easley at a Rotary Club lunch in the afternoon. Sanford left Easley in a black Ford Crown Victoria just after wrapping up an interview with a reporter around 2 p.m. He had meetings scheduled in Columbia in the afternoon, but no public events, his office said.
Sanford travels in a state car operated by a detail of officers from SLED, the Highway Patrol and Department of Natural Resources.
Sanford spokesman Ben Fox referred questions about the stop to Keel's agency.
It's a new controversy for Sanford.
The Republican governor is dealing with other problems. Since he returned from Argentina in June and confessed to an extramarital affair, his air travel practices have been under scrutiny. The State Ethics Commission is conducting a criminal investigation based on reports from The Associated Press that Sanford, among other things, used state planes for political and personal purposes and didn't report trips on private planes owned by buddies and donors.
The Legislature is awaiting results of that probe to decide whether to hold a special session this fall for impeachment proceedings. Sanford said Tuesday he's done nothing that comes close to warranting removal from office. He has 15 months left on his term.
And the episode will remind the public of criticism from Sanford's office in 2006 of Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer's speeding.
In February 2006, the Highway Patrol clocked the Republican lieutenant governor driving 101 mph but did not issue a ticket or warning. Saying he was driving himself home from a charity event at around midnight, Bauer apologized and said he didn't realize how fast he was going.
A few months earlier, Bauer went unticketed for driving between 77 and 78 in a 65 mph zone. A repentant Bauer took to walking from his home to his office, strode 10 miles to file to run for re-election and eventually bought a tiny car, the Smart ForTwo, joking it would keep him out of trouble.
The governor's spokesman at the time said Sanford and then-DPS Director Jim Schweitzer "believe very strongly that preferential treatment should never be a factor when enforcing the law."
Bauer declined to comment on Sanford's SLED agent speeding. A call to a number listed under the trooper's name did not go through and his highway patrol supervisor could not be immediately identified.
Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.