Sanford names Wingate as interim treasurer - - Columbia, South Carolina

Sanford names Wingate as interim treasurer

Thomas Ravenel Thomas Ravenel
Michael L. Miller Michael L. Miller

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS/AP) - The Ravenel name is still on the office wall, and on the State Treasurer's web site. But Thomas Ravenel is staying out of sight, at his home in Edisto, following his federal drug indictment.

South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury for distribution of cocaine.

Governor Mark Sanford released a statement shortly after the charges were brought on Tuesday, immediately suspending Ravenel as treasurer.

"These are obviously very serious allegations that we're constitutionally bound to act upon, and they'll ultimately be decided by the courts," Sanford said in his statement.

The South Carolina Republican Party released the following statement regarding Ravenel's indictment:
"The charges brought against State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel today are very serious, and we agree with Governor Mark Sanford's decision to suspend him. This is a personal matter that will be dealt with through the appropriate legal channels. We expect this situation to be resolved quickly and judiciously."

As of Wednesday, Columbia attorney Ken Wingate is managing South Carolina's money. Governor Mark Sanford announced Wingate's appointment early Wednesday afternoon, not long after Wingate met with the treasurer's office staff to begin his transition to one of the state's most influential offices.

Sanford says he felt it was important to act immediately. He says Wingate has done a good job for him on the Higher Education Commission and on a commission that made cost-saving recommendations on state government.

Sanford says Wingate will help in the search for a longer-term replacement.

The 47-year-old Wingate is a certified public accountant and an attorney. He also served on Sanford's transition team following the governor's election.

Ravenel's former spokesman, now speaking on behalf of Wingate, says the sudden changeover will not affect the state's finances.

Ravenel, his attorney and his political point man continue to maintain silence. Adviser Rod Shealy - who helped Ravenel win the treasurer's race - told WIS News 10 he'd been in contact with the suspended treasurer.

Asked how Ravenel is dealing with the allegation, Shealy declined comment, saying, "I don't want to jeopardize it."

Malyerck also said he could not elaborate, "Talked to him briefly. He was on his way back to his home in Charleston and that's about it. It was a surprise to all of us."

Ravenel has been charged along with a 25-year-old Mount Pleasant man, Michael L. Miller. Authorities released his photo Tuesday, though a SLED spokeswoman says Miller does not have an adult criminal record in South Carolina.

The indictments accuse Ravenel and Miller of distributing less than 500 grams of cocaine starting in late 2005. To put that in perspective, 500 grams is roughly equivalent to 4.5 cups of flour.

SLED says Ravenel bought and then gave the drugs to people he knew. Officials would not comment on who received the drugs or if Ravenel was using cocaine during his duties as state treasurer.

"We are not alleging at this point, and do not have evidence at this point, to suggest that Mr. Ravenel was selling cocaine. Rather, we allege that Mr. Ravenel purchased cocaine for himself and provided drugs to others for personal use," said FBI Agent Brian Lamkin.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Ravenel had not been booked on the charge against him.

Wis News 10 has learned Miller was arrested in a drug investigation in Charleston - leading to the Thomas Ravenel indictment.

SLED investigators tell WIS News 10 their investigation began in April after Ravenel was elected.

Federal authorities say Ravenel is not considered a flight risk and has been allowed to remain free until his July ninth court appearance.

Ravenel could receive a maximum fine of $1 million and a 20-year prison sentence, according to US Attorney Reginald Lloyd.

The news about the State Treasurer stunned the State House.

"Sitting in chamber going through business, we heard this big eruption. It sounded like a fight. Somebody had pulled up the information on a laptop computer and everybody was just astounded," said Rep. David Mack (D-Charleston).

Lawmakers had mixed emotions about the news.

"Amazement," said Mack. "Why, folks couldn't grasp someone that's state treasurer, from a family with money would find themselves in this situation."

Ravenel was the state chairman for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign, but according to a Giuliani press release, Ravenel has stepped down following the allegations.

A release Wednesday states that Barry Wynn will serve as the South Carolina Chairman of Mayor Giuliani's presidential campaign.

Ravenel was a rising political star when he was elected treasurer in 2006. He started his political career two years earlier, finishing a close third in the Republican primary for a US Senate seat while funding his own campaign.

Ravenel was founder of the Ravenel Development Corporation, a commercial real estate development company. His father, Arthur Ravenel Jr., was a powerful politician from Charleston who served eight years in the US House and is a former state representative and state senator.    

Copyright 2007 Raycom Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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