Columbia, S.C. — The whereabouts of Gov. Mark Sanford was unknown for nearly four days, and some state leaders question who was in charge of the executive office.
But Sanford’s office told the lieutenant governor’s office Monday afternoon that Sanford has been reached and he is fine, said Frank Adams, head of Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer’s office on aging.
Neither the governor’s office nor the State Law Enforcement Division, which provides security for governors, had been able to reach Sanford after he left the mansion Thursday in a black SLED Suburban SUV, said Sen. Jake Knotts and three others familiar with the situation but declined to be identified. Sanford
Sanford’s last known whereabouts had been near Atlanta because a mobile telephone tower picked up a signal from his phone, authorities said. His office now knows where he is, Adams said.
First lady Jenny Sanford told The Associated Press earlier Monday her husband has been gone for several days and she did not know where.
She said she was not concerned.
The governor’s state and personal phones had been turned off and he had not responded to phone or text messages since at least the weekend, a source familiar with the situation said.
Most mobile phones cannot be tracked if they are turned off.
Jenny Sanford said the governor said he needed time away from their children to write something.
The governor’s office issued a statement Monday afternoon: "Gov. Sanford is taking some time away from the office this week to recharge after the stimulus battle and the legislative session, and to work on a couple of projects that have fallen by the wayside. We are not going to discuss the specifics of his travel arrangements or his security arrangements."
One official familiar with the situation said there was no indication that foul play might have been involved because Sanford occasionally makes trips without his security detail.
Knotts, a longtime Sanford critic, said he contacted SLED Chief Reggie Lloyd Saturday after he heard reports the governor could not be reached.
"Chief Lloyd confirmed that my information is legitimate," Knotts said. "He shared my concerns" about succession of power in Sanford’s absence, the Lexington Republican said. Lloyd could not be reached immediately on Monday.
"I was recently made aware that Governor Sanford has frequently been eluding SLED agents and disappearing at odd times," Knotts said. Previously, Sanford has not been out of all contact - including with his own office - for this long before, a source, who insisted on anonymity, said.
Knotts said the state’s chief executive should never be unreachable.
"As the head of our state, in the unfortunate event of a state of emergency or homeland security situation, Governor Sanford should be available at all times to the Chief of SLED," the senator said.
"If for any reason, including the unknown whereabouts of the Governor, he is unable to perform the duties of his office the Constitution provides that the lieutenant governor assumes the position of governor.
"I want to know immediately who is running the executive branch in the governor’s absence," Knotts said.
The question of succession came just after Sanford became governor in 2003.
He joined the Air Force Reserve and was sent to Alabama for two week’s training with his unit, the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron based in Charleston. Sanford did not transfer power to Bauer at the time, saying he would be in regular contact with his office.
Sanford said then he would transfer authority in writing to the lieutenant governor only if he were called to active duty.
The Associated Press contributed to this report Reach Clif LeBlanc at firstname.lastname@example.org and John O'Connor at email@example.com