Against Delaware tradition, Chip Flowers did things ‘His Way’

NewsWorks contributor John Watson weighs in with his thoughts on the rise and fall of Delaware State Treasurer Chip Flowers. 

 As the NewsWorks headline from August 28 read, “Chip Flowers officially withdraws from Delaware primary.”

Effective at 4 p.m. that day, Flowers stood by his promise to quit his re-election bid for treasurer. Many of us were left wondering when he indicated that he might delay the effective date for a later time.

Flowers said his change of mind was caused by “thousands of calls and emails” urging him to “reconsider his decision.” While some people apparently asked Flowers to keep his name on the ballot, he acknowledged that it wasn’t the right way to win.

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As he put it, “We believe the way we win matters.”

Flowers also alluded to the primacy of family in his decision.

He needed to put them “ahead of constantly battling deceptions, falsehoods, and lies by his opponents that not only threatened my family and livelihood, but have also prevented our state from moving ahead.”

He said his family name was untarnished when he was born and he intended to pass it on to his fiancee and their children “in the same manner.”

Substantive steps

After his actioned that politicis are indeed in his past, his billboards and campaign signs can now be removed.

In published reports, Flowers says he decided to withdraw after “taking substantive steps with local law enforcement to clear my name from blatantly false claims put forth in our legal system 30 days before the election.”

In an email, Dover police spokesman Cpl. Mark Hoffman said “we will issue something, once we resolve the investigation involving Mr. Flowers ”

Flower’s former deputy, Erika Benner, had filed an harassment charge with Dover Police, following an incident involving Flowers and Benner’s 16-year-old son before a Fourth of July Parade in Dover.

Benner provided a message she claims came from Flowers issuing a threatening remark toward her son, saying “He fu—-with the wrong n—–.”

Flowers says he is the victim in all of this. He said Benner’s son banged on his car before the Fourth of July Parade while shouting a racial slur.

In addition, Flowers provided a message to Dover Police from Benner asking him to meet with her. “Can you please call me when you’re off the phone? I’m in Middletown by myself and have a few hours. I didn’t know if you want meet to have a drink and some food. I’m driving by your house in a few minutes.”

Of course, Benner denies all of this.

An iron fist

Subsequently, Sean Barney was endorsed to replace Flowers by the executive committee of the Delaware Democratic Party at a meeting held after Flowers anounced he would not run for re-election. Investment fund manager Ken Simpler and Miford businesswoman Sher Valenzuela will run on the Republican ticket for state treasuer on Sept. 9.

Looking back at Chip Flowers’ original election, it strikes me that some people wanted to subvert his authority. You’ll notice that I’m not blaming Flowers for any of this.

He is reported to be the first African-American to hold statewide office in Delaware. He defeated Velda-Jone Potter, who lost the Democratic primary due to various allegations made against her.

Jones-Potter was appointed to the office by Gov. Jack Markell.

It was obvious from the beginning that Flowers would wield an iron fist in his operation of the treasury, making investment decisions for Delaware without any major input by the Cash Management Policy Board. In turn, the CMPB used its political connections with the Delaware General Assembly to pass legislation limiting Flower’s power.

Being the kind of independent Wilmington corporate attorney that he is, I’m sure that Flowers was ready for the fight.

After years of clashing with his ppolitical adversaries, Flowers is accused of having problems for not doing things the so-called cordial “Delaware Way.” From what I have learned about Delaware politics, it’s not very cordial to the opposition, and Flowers fit that description to a “t” because he did not do thing the “Delaware Way.”

As treasurer, he rightfully did things “His Way.”

Ethics problems

Flowers and Brenner both had some problems with using the state’s credit card for personal charges, but in most cases they apologized and reimbursed the state when needed. Benner eventually resigned from her deputy position with Flowers, seeking a different state job,

She was ultimately removed from the state payroll  by Flowers in January after finding no job and allegations of $2,300 in personal charges to her state credit card.

There were many rumors about a romantic relationship between Flowers and Benner which he has denied several times. However, Benner said it was true in a report made public by Dover police.

Dover police said she told them “she had a previous romantic relationship with Mr. Flowers, which was at times physical in nature, with Mr. Flowers being the agressor.”

According to the report, the affair ended in 2012. However, Benner alleged that the police officer who took her statement mischaracterized her relationship with Flowers, which she later denied in a revised document given to the News Journal.

Dover Police Lt. Jason Pries, when shown Benner’s revised report,said “we checked and verified our records, which are consistant with the original document we presented to you guys”. 

Benner maintains her denial, remarking that “there is no way I altered a police report.”

As for Flowers, he declined to discuss the matter, saying he would never discuss any thing about his private life.

Personally, I’m very doubtful that the Dover police would be “mischaracterizing” Benner’s report, or any one else’s for that matter. Flowers provided messages by Benner to police that have already been noted.

Their content makes me wonder if she was looking for another husband.

His way

On August 15, Flowers offered a tearful goodbye to his position. He said we would leave Delaware at the end of his term and cancel his re-election campaign.

For a short period of time, he had us wondering if he had changed his mind and was running again, but as already noted here, he finally lived up to his promise to step down, leaving the position to Barney, who is thought to be a  sure winner in the Democratic primary.

Barney is a former aide to Markell and Sen. Tom Carper.

Perhaps Mr. Flowers should do some campaigning for him because, as he promised, “politics is now my past, not my future ”

I think Flowers would have won if he had stayed in the race, doing things “His Way,” not the “Delaware Way.”

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