This complaint is presented in three sections below. Part I summarizes the key facts regarding Michael Ramone’s intimidation of his opponent’s employer leading to her firing. Part II presents the violations of Delaware law demonstrated by Representative Ramone’s actions. Part III provides more background and documentation including the emails Mike Ramone sent to PAWS for People.
I. Complaint Summary
My name is Jack Guerin and Michael Ramone is my State Representative. After Stephanie Barry filed to run against Representative Ramone in July 2018, he sent two intimidating emails to her non-profit employer PAWS for People implying that the agency’s Grant in Aid funding could be in jeopardy if the agency continued to employ Barry. Ramone copied the General Assembly’s Controller General who manages the Grant in Aid budget.
PAWS fired Stephanie Barry about six weeks later–on August 29th. In an email, Mike Ramone indicated that PAWS and Barry have signed Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).
II. Violations of Delaware Law:
The first citation below is from Title 11 of the Delaware Criminal Code, Chapter 5. Specific Offenses, Subchapter VI. Offenses Against Public Administration.
In this case, the “public servant” referred to in this complaint is State Representative Michael Ramone. The definitions section explicitly states that legislators are “Public Servants”.
The complaint is that Representative Ramone was “guilty of official misconduct” and “intending to obtain a personal benefit” when he sent intimidating emails to PAWS for People which employed his 2018 opponent. Point (3) under § 1211 states that the Public Servant is guilty when he “functions in a way intended to benefit the public servant’s own property or financial interests…”. In this case “property or financial interests” refers to PAWS firing Stephanie Barry on August 29, 2018 which served Ramone’s interest by reducing his opponent’s resources.
Part 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:
(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; or
§ 1213. Definitions relating to abuse of office.
In §§ 1211 and 1212 of this title, the definitions given in § 1209 of this title apply.
§ 1209. Definitions relating to bribery and improper influence.
As used in §§ 1201-1208 of this title:
(4) “Public servant” means any officer or employee of the State or any political subdivision thereof, including legislators and judges, and any person participating as juror, advisor or consultant in performing a governmental function but the term does not include witnesses. This definition includes persons who are candidates for office or who have been elected to office but who have not yet assumed office.
III. Mike Ramone’s Opponent Gets Fired
Following his election as State Representative in 2008, Mike Ramone did not face a contested election for the next ten years in either primary or general elections. In June 2018, Stephanie Barry filed to run against him.
Barry had been an employee of a nonprofit animal welfare agency, PAWS for People, for more than a decade. In an interview with WDEL, she explained that she was late in filing for the election because she waited for permission from her employer before running.
One of Stephanie Barry’s first campaign communications was through Facebook messenger which included the following sentence. “This is a part-time job—I have the support of my employer (PAWS) and I hope I can count on yours.” Barry explained to WDEL that her mention of “support” from PAWS referred to their permission for her to run for election.
As a member of the powerful Joint Finance Committee, Mike Ramone had helped PAWS obtain $5,000 in Grant in Aid funding the following year. Having received a copy of Barry’s Facebook communication, on July 10th Ramone sent two extremely intimidating emails to PAWs officials. These emails were obtained by both WDEL and Blue Delaware:
“As you may know Mrs. Barry is running for the 21st representative seat. I only wanted to ask for some clarity on posts made about PAWS. Could I please see a copy of that policy [of no endorsements in political campaigns by PAWS]. I was just confused about PAWS endorsement of my opponent (as written in her posts) without ever speaking with me. I thought that odd viewing the fact were a Grant and Aid recipient and was looking for some direction but a copy of your policy would help me better understand.”
Blue Delaware reported that Mike Ramone copied the General Assembly’s Controller General, who manages the Grant in Aid budget, and that he sent another email later that day.
“I only requested a copy of your “strict” policy so I could understand the position taken by PAWS and their decision to not speak to any political candidates as stated by [PAWS official]. I requested clarity since on Mrs. Barry’s post it states she is being supported by PAWS and she then requests monetary support from those whom she solicited.”
“Being on JFC and being the Representative which reviewed PAWS Grant and Aid request, I was the person who recommended PAWS get additional funding from last year. Having done that, I wanted to be certain PAWS was not supporting a political candidate through any “support,” either financially nor looking away while hours are adjusted for the Candidate/Employee; while campaign needs are addressed. I will leave this to you to resolve in a consistent fair manor.”
PAWS fired Stephanie Barry about six weeks later–on August 29th. No inquiry has been undertaken to determine whether Mike Ramone abused his office. In an email, Mike Ramone indicated that PAWS and Barry have signed Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).