Posted: Feb. 9, 2006


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The mass firings at the Delaware Economic Development Office last summer have opened up a job there for the husband of a state legislator, who insists she did not know her spouse was in the running for it.

The development office's work with bioscience companies has gone to Michael G. Green, who is married to state Rep. Helene M. Keeley, a Wilmington Democrat with 10 years in the General Assembly.

Green was given a 90-day contract last month for $20,000 with the understanding that it could lead to a permanent position, based on an evaluation at its conclusion, according to Christine Serio, a media relations specialist for the office.

Not that there is anything unusual about legislators or their family members collecting state paychecks. Double dipping is practically a way of life in Legislative Hall.

More than a dozen lawmakers do it -- including Keeley herself, who has a job in the Labor Department. The legislative spouse who probably has the most public state role is Paula Roy, the Delaware Health Care Commission's executive director and the wife of state Rep. Roger P. Roy, a Limestone Hills Republican.

Green's job stands out, however, because it is enmeshed in the employment travails of the Delaware Economic Development Office, or DEDO, which abruptly dismissed 10 people last July.

The action angered a number of lawmakers, not only for the way it was done or for catching them by surprise, but also for its suspicious timing, two weeks after the legislative session ended for the year. The criticism of Director Judy McKinney-Cherry's employment practices has continued into this week during DEDO's budget hearing with the Joint Finance Committee.

Before the summer firings, Green's responsibilities belonged to Bob Dayton, who held a $79,000-a-year job focusing on bioscience and was doing the work when Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, a Democrat, was named the BIO Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization in 2004.

Dayton has a political connection of his own as the brother of Jeffrey A. Dayton, a senior aide to U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle, a Republican, staying with Castle for 25 years as he progressed from lieutenant governor to governor to the Congress.

Bob Dayton was hired in 1998 during the administration of Gov. Thomas R. Carper, now a Democratic senator, after working at W.L. Gore & Associates. After his dismissal, Dayton started BioScience Expansion Services to stay involved in bioscience development.

The bioscience position is under particular scrutiny, regarded as one of the most important within DEDO, because of the prominent presence of the science sector, including DuPont, AstraZeneca, the University of Delaware and so on, in the state's economy.

"Do I think the person who heads up our biotechnology cluster in that department is important? I think that person is a key person in our economic development department," said Donna D. Stone, a Dover Republican who chairs the House Economic Development, Banking & Insurance Committee.

Keeley says she had nothing to do with her husband's hiring. Furthermore, she says she did not even know he had applied.

"I didn't know. People aren't going to understand that," Keeley said. "I knew that my husband has been looking for alternative employment. As to where he was interviewing, his comment to me was, you will know when it's time for you to know, and I trust him."

Green, who has a bachelor's degree in chemistry and a master's degree in business, was working in investment for Morgan Stanley. He competed with about 70 other applicants for the opening, according to Serio, the DEDO spokesperson.

"It's just coincidental he happens to be a legislator's husband. He also happens to be qualified," Serio said. "We almost think it would be unfair to disregard him because of that."

Green's new job has done more than bring some attention to Keeley. It also has a bearing on her legislative work, because she sits on the House Economic Development, Banking & Insurance Committee.

"If there are issues involving DEDO, I would absolutely, positively have to recuse myself," Keeley said.