From London to Ecuador: Why is a Midlands prosecutor and his staff spending public money overseas?

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The thousands of pages of records show bank statements, credit card purchases, and more of Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson and his staff.

Johnson, the elected prosecutor for Richland and Kershaw Counties, has been under fire ever since a group known as Protecting Public Access to Public Records (PAPR) posted those documents online.

Some of the records show purchases of luxury items. Many others show receipts of party supplies. Others show what some say is questionable spending abroad.

Of the documents we've gone through so far, we've seen purchases from Qatar to London, the Galapagos Islands to Amsterdam. The documents show public funds are being spent on hotels, flights, gas, food, etc. in some of those places.

Was the travel to a legitimate conference or to work on a case with international ties? As of now, Solicitor Johnson and his staff haven't offered a public explanation.

Across the pond, in London, Solicitor Johnson's card was used to book a room for $279 at a hotel on the edge of the city's iconic Trafalgar Square. That purchase was pinpointed on a bank statement from December 2016.

Documents also show several purchases in Germany from over the past few years. The office paid for a flight to Frankfurt in 2014 and a flight to Munich in July 2016.

In Finland, the office booked a hotel at the Hilton Helsinki in December 2016. In Vienna, Austria, in late 2011, records seem to show that Johnson's account was used to buy a phone. Records also show the office seemed to buy gas and about half-a-dozen Uber rides in the Netherlands.

Back in the New World, Johnson's card was used to book a room at the swanky Hotel Cabrera Imperial in Bogota, Colombia for $848 last September. Records show his card was also used to pay for a meal at the hotel's restaurant, Cabrera Resto Bar; that charge was $232. In Quito, Ecuador last April, Johnson's card was used to book a hotel, the J.W. Marriott, for $657. Records show his card was also used to book a room at an exotic Galapagos resort – Golden Bay Resort & Spa – at the price tag of $912 last February.

In his first TV interview earlier this week, the solicitor defended himself, said he's not worried, but said he'll correct anything that needs to be fixed.

To be clear, it's possible he has legitimate explanations that he and his staff were doing county business on some of the trips and with some of the purchases. However, at this point, that's still unknown.

Patrick McLaughlin, a Florence attorney, said he's never heard of a prosecutor making similar international purchases before.

"I'm not sure how traveling to the Galapagos or Bogota is going to help the citizens of Richland and Kershaw Counties," he said.

Friday, WIS reached out to Johnson again to see if he could answer some more questions about his office's use of public funds in foreign places. We didn't hear back.

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