State senator: Leaked tape allegations are politically motivated

DOVER — State Sen. and lieutenant governor candidate Bethany Hall-Long on Thursday pushed back against allegations her husband improperly used his government job to help her get re-elected.

Wilmington radio station WDEL posted snippets of an audio recording Tuesday that feature New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon discussing whether to discipline Sen. Hall-Long’s husband, a county housing inspector, for allegedly accessing a confidential list of low-income residents. According to the audio, Dana Long used the list to contact residents and urge them to vote for his wife in her 2014 re-election bid.

Sen. Bethany Hall-Long

Sen. Bethany Hall-Long

Mr. Gordon says in the audio he does not want to fire Mr. Long because of his wife’s position in the General Assembly, where she can lobby for the county.

In a brief conference call Thursday, Sen. Hall-Long, D-Middletown, said she is being attacked by a “nameless, politically motivated source” because of her run for higher office. She is one of six candidates, all Democrats, seeking the lieutenant governor’s office

In a statement issued Wednesday evening, Mr. Gordon said the audio was leaked by former Chief Administrative Officer David Grimaldi, who was fired last fall and is currently engaged in litigation with the county.

“I initially viewed Dave as a talented young man whom I valued as a trusted employee,” Mr. Gordon, who is up for re-election later this year, said. “I am sorry for any harm that has come to the county because of my misplaced trust. We now learn that Dave decided to secretly record members of county government during frank and confidential discussions. It has been brought to our attention that he has been doing this secret taping for over two years.

“We have learned that on at least one other occasion, a tape he released previously had been altered. So in this campaign season, I guess we can look forward to Dave Grimaldi treating us all to those edited private conversations complete with locker room language.”

Sen. Hall-Long said her husband, who was caught stealing opposition campaign signs in 2014, never accessed the list of low-income residents. One person informed country officials Mr. Long mentioned her candidacy, and officials later cleared him of any wrongdoing, she said.

“I join other Delawareans in being disturbed by what I heard on tape and I am very frustrated that my husband and I have been pulled into the long-standing feud at the county,” she said.

Aside from a short statement released Wednesday evening, the call Thursday morning marked her first comments on the issue.

Mr. Gordon says on the tape he does not want to have Mr. Long fired because he is hoping Sen. Hall-Long votes against a proposal to alter the share of the realty transfer tax, which would bring in millions more for the state at the expense of the counties.

“We can’t think of a technicality so this kid can stay?” he is heard saying in reference to Mr. Long.

Sen. Hall-Long said she was unaware of the recording until this week and did not promise to fight the tax proposal in return for her husband not being punished. Any other claim is “contrary to the truth and goes against everything I stand for,” she said.

Although she did not mention Mr. Grimaldi by name, she claimed she is caught in the middle of a personal feud between him and county officials.

The leak, Sen. Hall-Long said, has made public confidential information regarding her husband.

“It’s unfortunate that a settled, unfounded personnel issue involving Dana has become public because of a tape provided to the media,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader F. Gary Simpson, R-Milford, said Wednesday while he is not very familiar with the allegations, the Senate Ethics Committee could look into the issue if it is proven Sen. Hall-Long was aware of the actions of her husband and Mr. Gordon.

State Republican Party Chairman Charlie Copeland in a statement Thursday urged Sen. Hall-Long to release documentation related to the controversy.

“It would be the easiest way to clear the air on the troubling accusations that have arisen over the last few days,” he said. “With Mr. Long’s existing relationship to poor campaign behavior I would think that the senator would want to reassure the citizens of Delaware that her words match the facts. Transparency matters.”

First elected to the House of Representatives in 2002, Sen. Hall-Long won her first term in the Senate in 2008. She has spent much of her time in office focused on health-related issues.

News of her husband’s sign-stealing broke less than a week before the 2014 general election, and she barely survived a challenge from Republican John Marino, winning by about 2 percent, or fewer than 300 votes.

Mr. Long was charged with theft under $1,500, and an agreement was reached under mediation, allowing him to avoid prosecution.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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