- Associated Press - Thursday, March 8, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Spending records obtained from a South Carolina prosecutor’s office shows he used an office credit card to pay for a hotel in the Galapagos Islands and high-priced Uber rides, among other spending.

The nearly 1,000 pages of records from Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson’s office show he used his office credit card to charge $912 at a deluxe hotel on the Galapagos Islands and $1,200 on Uber rides over 13 months, mostly choosing the ride-sharing service’s more expensive Uber Black and Uber Select options, which provide luxury sedans and SUVs.

The records were obtained by The Post and Courier of Charleston with help from newly formed watchdog group Protecting Public Access to Public Records . The watchdog group is being helped by a law firm run by Dick Harpootlian, himself a former Fifth Circuit solicitor and state Democratic Party chairman. Johnson ran for office as a Democrat when he was first elected in 2010.

The records do not indicate what account the spending came from, what reasons Johnson gave for the trips or whether he reimbursed the spending.

Johnson said if there are any mistakes in how he handled his spending, he will correct them.

“I released the documents because I have nothing to hide. I stand by the work I do in my office and in our communities,” Johnson said in a statement, pointing out the items questioned by the newspaper were only about a dozen expenditures in tens of thousands of pages.

Attorney General Alan Wilson asked for the State Law Enforcement Division to see if an investigation is needed.

The newspaper scheduled a meeting with Johnson on Wednesday, but a reporter said he waited three hours, and Johnson did not show. In his statement, Johnson he had to go to a doctor’s appointment with his pregnant wife, who was then sent to the hospital as they await the birth of their first child.

Johnson’s spending records also show he spent $118 for tickets to a Minnesota Twins baseball game after asking an assistant to find him the best seats. Johnson was attending the 2012 National Community Prosecution Conference in Minneapolis.

On a different trip to Minnesota in August 2016, Johnson spent $179 on an Uber ride that started in downtown Minneapolis and went to the Paisley Park area, where singer Prince’s studio was located. The musician had died four months earlier.

Johnson’s office paid for a $623.53 meal at Hanks Oyster Bar in Alexandria, Virginia; $276 meal at Thoroughbreds, a steakhouse in Myrtle Beach; $363 at Pearlz in Columbia; and a $197.93 bill at Ruth’s Chris in Columbia, according to the spending records.

Other travel bills for Johnson in 2017 included trips to New Orleans, Nashville, Hartford, Minneapolis and Bogota, Colombia.

All told, the records show Johnson charged more than $11,700 at restaurants and private clubs and $8,800 for special events. The special event spending included $1,900 in 2014 to purchase 15 tickets to the Carolina Cup horse race in Camden, along with food, embroidered polo shirts and complimentary leather portfolios for guests.

The horse race is in Kershaw County, which is in Johnson’s circuit along with Richland County.


Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com

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