(The Center Square) — Delaware Republicans are calling for the resignation of a top Carney administration official after a state commission determined that he violated the public’s trust by improperly using taxpayer funds.
Last week, the independent Delaware Public Integrity Commission ruled that Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse used his public office to benefit agency employees, approved contracts without public notice or competitive bidding and engaged in conduct that “violates the public trust” for allowing several employees to be paid for boarding animals.
The panel said contracts for providing shelter to cows, sheep, ducks, chickens and other rescued farm animals should have been put out to bid under state laws.
Instead, the panel’s investigation determined, they were handed out to agency employees, who were paid thousands of dollars in addition to their regular state pay and benefits.
Following the ruling, state Sen. Dave Lawson and five other GOP lawmakers are demanding that Scuse resign. In a letter to Gov. John Carney, they urged the Democrat to “take immediate action” by removing Scuse from his position.
“This behavior and apparent nepotism is unacceptable, and further sows the seeds of public mistrust of its government,” they wrote. “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.”
The lawmakers noted that at least one state employee was paid over $90,000 for boarding about 500 rescued chickens that ultimately died.
In testimony before the ethics panel last week, Scuse told commissioners that he wasn’t aware paying department employees to care for the animals violated the code of conduct.
Scuse told commissioners the contracts were awarded to help care for rescue animals from large-scale seizures in response to a decreasing number of animal rescue facilities.
He said he “exercised his emergency powers to make a quick decision,” giving him the authority to award the contracts to care for the rescued animals.
The commission’s findings in the case have been referred to the Office of Auditor Accounts for potential accounting policy violations.