Ethics Laws

Delaware Ethics Statutes

In 2015 the Center for Public Integrity gave Delaware an F, ranking the First State 48th in systems to deter corruption in state government.  The report characterized ethics enforcement in Delaware as “anemic”.

Members of the Delaware General Assembly have chosen to exempt themselves from the “State Employees’, Officers’ and Officials’ Code of Conduct” and from oversight by the Public Integrity Commission (PIC).

Following the Center for Public Integrity’s 2015 report, Senator Bryan Townsend introduced bills in both 2016 and 2017 which would eliminate the exemption of General Assembly members from ethics oversite.  These bills didn’t even get a committee hearing. 

According to Deborah Moreau, the Public Integrity Commission’s lawyer, “that leaves the Delaware General Assembly with something of an honor system when it comes to public ethics laws.”  This exemption should be eliminated, and the Delaware PIC should be adequately funded to provide effective ethics oversight for all public officials including members of the General Assembly.

Nevertheless, the following section presents other ethics statutes including an Article of the Constitution which do apply to General Assembly members.  Following each section, are comments in italics regarding the applicability of these statutes to the legislators profiled on this website.

Delaware Constitution

Article II, Section 20 of the Delaware Constitution states that, “Any member of the General Assembly who has a personal or private interest in any measure or bill pending in the General Assembly shall disclose the fact to the House of which he or she is a member and shall not vote thereon.”

All four of the legislators profiled here have violated this Article.  Although the self-dealing exposed here goes far beyond failure to recuse on votes, these failures are clear violations which should provide the foundation for more comprehensive investigation.

Offenses Against Public Administration

Title 11, Chapter 5, Subchapter VI lists a series of “Offenses Against Public Administration” including improper influence, abuse of office and profiteering. First, the definition section § 1209 states:

(4) “Public servant” means any officer or employee of the State or any political subdivision thereof, including legislators and judges… (emphasis added)

§ 1207 Improper influence; class A misdemeanor.

A person is guilty of improper influence when:

(1) The person threatens unlawful harm to any person with intent to influence the latter’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant, party officer or voter; or

(2) The person threatens unlawful harm to any public servant or party officer with intent to influence that public servant or party officer to violate that public servant’s or party officer’s duty as a public servant or party officer.

Improper influence is a class A misdemeanor.

This provision could apply to Mike Ramone’s pressuring PAWS which led to Stephanie Barry’s firing and to Nicole Poore’s and Valerie Longhurst’s applications for jobs with nonprofit agencies.

B. Abuse of Office

§ 1211 Official misconduct; class A misdemeanor

A public servant is guilty of official misconduct when, intending to obtain a personal benefit or to cause harm to another person:

(1) The public servant commits an act constituting an unauthorized exercise of official functions, knowing that the act is unauthorized; or

(2) The public servant knowingly refrains from performing a duty which is imposed by law or is clearly inherent in the nature of the office; or

(3) The public servant performs official functions in a way intended to benefit the public servant’s own property or financial interests under circumstances in which the public servant’s actions would not have been reasonably justified in consideration of the factors which ought to have been taken into account in performing official functions…

All four of the profiled legislators may have violated this Article. 

§ 1212 Profiteering; class A misdemeanor

A public servant is guilty of profiteering when, in contemplation of official action by the public servant or by a governmental entity with which the public servant is associated, or in reliance on information to which the public servant has access in an official capacity and which has not been made public:

(1) The public servant acquires a pecuniary interest in any property, transaction or enterprise which may be affected by the official action or information…

This statute could apply to Mike Ramone’s possible insider trading related to his investment in the DBOT.