DOVER — The state Senate confirmed Shawn Garvin as the new secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Wednesday on the first day back after the February break but not without controversy — including a spat between a Republican senator and the governor’s office.
Mr. Garvin, whose nomination Senate Republicans blocked in January, was approved 14-5, with one absent and one not voting. He replaces David Small, who has held the position since July 2014.
With the vote, Gov. John Carney’s cabinet took another step to completion, although the top jobs for the Delaware Economic Development Office and Department of Labor have yet to be permanently filled.
“Thank you to the members of the Delaware Senate for confirming Shawn Garvin to secretary of the Department of
Natural Resources and Environmental Control,” the governor said in a statement. “We need to continue to protect Delaware from the threats of climate change, to work with our farmers to help them operate in more environmentally friendly ways and to invest outside, in our beaches and our tourism economy. With important environmental issues to address in our state and his extensive background, I know he will be a strong leader.”
Democrats unanimously supported Mr. Garvin, but the Republican caucus was divided.
Minority Whip Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, appeared to sum up some of his colleagues’ thoughts, expressing frustration over the process. Mr. Garvin appeared before the Executive Committee in January to answer a few questions but was not present in the Senate chamber Wednesday, even though he was sworn in over at the governor’s office across the street from Legislative Hall within an hour of the vote.
Sen. Lavelle said Wednesday lawmakers were asked by the governor’s office ahead of the committee hearing “to take it easy on him, implied, look, we can come back and do this again sometime and you’ll get your questions in then.”
Jonathan Starkey, a spokesman for Gov. Carney, said Wednesday lawmakers were not told to not ask questions but did not refute all of the senator’s claims.
Sen. Lavelle said after the vote he felt he was misled by the administration.
“The governor’s office asked me not to engage in a significant Q-and-A that day,” he said.
Some Republicans had expressed concerns over Mr. Garvin’s background as a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator under former President Barack Obama, with Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover, saying in January “the EPA in the Obama administration was probably the most anti-business EPA in history.”
Mr. Garvin first appeared before the Senate seven weeks ago but with the chamber knotted at 10-10, the GOP was able to hold up his nomination. After Stephanie Hansen won a special election for the vacant 10th District seat last month, the Democratic Party had enough votes to push the nomination through.
Before the vote could even get underway, however, Sen. Lavelle and President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-Wilmington Manor, engaged in a brief dispute over record-keeping Wednesday.
Sen. McBride chose not to begin a new legislative day until after the vote, instead opting to continue the legislative day from Jan. 26, the last day before the break. He said he did so to allow Mr. Garvin’s nomination to be marked down in the record as taking place one day after his committee hearing, but Sen. Lavelle questioned why the calendar had not been flipped to a new day.
After consulting a Senate attorney, senators voted to confirm Mr. Garvin officially on Jan. 26.
Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at email@example.com