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Investigation sought into spending, travel of SC prosecutor

COLUMBIA (AP) South Carolina’s attorney general has requested a preliminary investigation of the travel and spending habits of a prosecutor who was on the road for more than 70 days over 21 months.

Spending records cover Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson’s travel and spending in 2016 and the first nine months of 2017.

He traveled to Amsterdam; Colombia; Ecuador; the Galapagos Islands, off South America; London; Poland; and Qatar. Within South Carolina, he went to Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Johnson also traveled to Cleveland; College Station, Texas; Miami; Montgomery, Alabama; Las Vegas; and Washington, D.C.

Those travels are reflected in credit card bills, and taxi and other receipts from Johnson’s office released by Public Access to Public Records, a nonprofit that obtained the records through South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act law.

Johnson, who is seeking his third four-year term as chief prosecutor this year, declined to answer specific questions about his travels.

“We are in the process of conducting an internal investigation and will respond to these and other questions regarding specific expenditures at the appropriate time,” he said in a statement. “I reiterate that at no time did I intend for office funds to be used to pay for personal expenses.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Alan Wilson asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate charges such as one from Sept. 29, when Johnson’s office credit card was billed $798 for a three-night stay at Homewood Suites, a hotel in College Station, Texas, just a mile from Texas A&M. The University of South Carolina football team played Texas A&M on Sept. 30. Johnson left the hotel on Oct. 2.

Records of that hotel stay are among 12,000 records of public spending by Johnson’s office that PAPR has released so far. It plans to release an additional 28,000 spending records from Johnson’s office soon.

Some records indicate that, on the same day that Johnson was traveling out of the country, someone else was using the same prosecutor’s office credit card to travel in the United States.

For example, Johnson was in Colombia, Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands from Feb. 17-26, 2017. His stay in the Galapagos at the Golden Bay Ventas luxury hotel cost $912. From Feb. 16-20, 2017, the same credit card was used to pay for a stay at the Hampton Inn in Mountain View, California, according to a credit card statement.

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