Top Republicans in the Delaware Senate are asking for details about the controversial hiring of their former Democrat colleague Patricia Blevins, who was recently appointed executive director of the Office of Animal Welfare following her election loss in November.
In a letter to Kara Odom Walker, Governor Carney’s new Secretary of Health and Social Services, Senators Gary Simpson and Greg Lavelle question the “ethics and hiring process” around the appointment, which came after what the agency said was an extensive national search that identified at least 70 potential candidates. The Office of Animal Welfare oversees standards enforcement for animal shelters, responds to reports of animal cruelty and directs a spay and neuter program, among other responsibilities.
Pointing to an application deadline for the position that closed on October 26, 2016 – prior to the November election – and the fact that Blevins led the legislative initiative that created the animal welfare office, Simpson and Lavelle call the “chain of events” resulting in Blevins’ hiring “deeply disturbing,” and in violation of the spirit of merit hiring standards.
Questions Simpson and Lavelle have posed to Secretary Walker include:
- Were any of the 70 applicants interviewed? If so, who conducted the interviews?
- When did former Senator Blevins apply for the position, or was she selected without actually submitting an application?
- Was former Senator Blevins interviewed? If so, who conducted the interview?
- Was the former senator “pre-selected” over other applicants, such that the hiring process put into place was abandoned?
- Did any of the 70 applicants have experience in law enforcement, or any type of medical experience in coordinating efforts to identify and respond to the broad health concerns for animals and the public that OAW is tasked with addressing?
As of press time, Secretary Walker and former Senator Blevins had not responded to the letter