While the phrase “The Delaware Way” is often used to describe the state’s ability to work together across party lines, some Republican leaders say it can also describe cronyism within state government.
Delaware’s big surprise on Election Day last November was the defeat of Senate President Pro-tem. Patty Blevins, a Democrat. Her Republican opponent 31-year-old first time candidate Anthony Delcollo was the only person to upset an incumbent that day.
For Democrats, the loss of Blevins who had served in the Senate since 1990 was a shock, but she landed on her feet. In January, Blevins was hired by the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services to run the state Office of Animal Welfare.
But that decision smelled like cronyism to state Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson, R- Milford. Simpson, along with Senator Greg Lavelle, R- Sharpley, wrote to DHSS Secretary Kara Odom Walker questioning the ethics of hiring Blevins for such a high profile position. What really raised their eyebrows was reports that the application process for that position closed on October 26, two weeks before the election.
“This chain of events is deeply disturbing for multiple reasons. Of note is the fact that Mrs. Blevins spearheaded the legislation that brought the OAW and position that she now holds into existence,” the Senators wrote.
In response, Sec. Odom Walker wrote that DHSS’s nationwide search did not yield a successful candidate, so the position was offered to Blevins in December. “Ms. Blevins has nearly 20 years of experience in managing personnel and social service agencies, including nine years as Executive Director of the Delaware Helpline and three years managing the Denison Branch of Girls, Inc.,” she wrote. “She was the most qualified person for the position.”
But that response wasn’t the answer Simpson and Lavelle were looking for: “We couldn’t be more disappointed and offended by the total lack of response to our questions,” the Senators wrote back to Odom Walker. “To think that a nationwide search conveniently failed to offer anyone qualified for this hire is preposterous…the wagons have been circled and the true and shadowy Delaware Way wins again.”