Six Delaware State Senate Republicans on Thursday asked Gov. John Carney to immediately remove Delaware Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse following an ethics report that said he violated state bidding processes.
The Public Integrity Commission released a report saying Scuse improperly used $100,000 in taxpayer money to employees of the department to house seized farm animals without public notice or a public bidding process, said a statement from six Republicans.
One employee, referred to as “her” in the report, took in nearly 500 chickens rescued from an alleged neglect case. That employee was paid over $90,000 for boarding the birds but none survived beyond 30 days.
Contracts involving existing employees are supposed to be open to public bidding if they are for more than $2,000, the commission said.
The commission employees had exclusive access to the contracts with the department they already worked for.
A state deputy attorney general advised the secretary not to pay his employees to house the animals, but Scuse did it anyway, the statement said.
This was all discovered only after complaints were made to the integrity commission, it said.
“This behavior and apparent nepotism are unacceptable, and further sows the seeds of public mistrust of its government,” said Republican leader Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View; Republican Whip Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown; Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel; Sen. Bryant Richardson, R-Seaford; Sen. David Wilson, R-Lincoln; Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Dover.
“Agriculture is Delaware’s number one economic industry, and it is vital that the department overseeing it has the trust of those within the industry,” their statement said. “Quotes in media reports from those interviewed and personal conversations we have had with farmers display a great level of concern with the DDA and its current leadership.
“We urge you to take immediate action and remove Secretary Scuse from his position.”
The commission held a closed-door meeting July 24th to weigh the validity of the complaints.
Minutes of the meeting made public in September show that the Commission substantiated the allegations against at least three Delaware state employees for taking state funds not associated with their government roles.
The employee who took on the 500 chickens received checks in the amount of $74,410 and $15,655, respectively, for contracted services outside the employee’s official responsibilities.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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