Prominent lawyer’s nomination to UD board withdrawn

Special Assistant with the Department of Correction Claire DeMatteis. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — The nomination of Stuart M. Grant to the University of Delaware board of trustees has been withdrawn, the governor’s office announced Friday.

Mr. Grant, who has been embroiled in a controversy for several months over alleged sexual harassment, requested his name be pulled back.

As a replacement, Gov. John Carney has nominated Claire DeMatteis, who is currently serving as a special assistant for the Department of Correction.

“From her time serving as a top aide to then-Senator Joe Biden, to her extensive private sector experience, Claire has demonstrated sound judgment and leadership, and has earned the respect of Delawareans up and down our state,” Gov. Carney said in a statement.

“Claire is a University of Delaware graduate and active alumna whose experience will serve the university’s students and its Board of Trustees well. I look forward to the Delaware Senate considering Claire’s nomination.”

The release from the governor’s office made no mention of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Grant’s nomination, other than to say the withdrawal came at his request.

The fate of Mr. Grant, a lawyer and prominent UD donor, had been in limbo for several months following a sexual harassment claim that arose in a legal battle involving Reuben A. Guttman, a former partner at his firm.

Only the governor has the power to withdraw nominations to the board of trustees.

Mr. Grant was first appointed to the board in 2011 by then Gov. Jack Markell and was renominated in January. On March 6, the University of Delaware’s student newspaper, The Review, reported on a harassment claim against Mr. Grant.

As a result, he did not receive a hearing from the Senate Executive Committee, although the selection was not withdrawn by the governor until this week.

Mr. Grant sent a letter dated May 16 to Gov. Carney asking him to rescind his nomination.

In the letter, he said the allegations were made up by an ex-Grant & Eisenhofer lawyer — Mr. Guttman — who stole major clients from the firm. Despite a “complete lack of factual support” to back up the claim of misbehavior, Mr. Grant wrote, UD officials had been told the Senate might vote down his nomination if it came before the chamber.

“It seems that three year old unsubstantiated allegations are enough, in this political climate, to make a number of Senators gun-shy,” the letter states.

“And while my confirmation might be approved after a political fight, that makes no sense for anyone. If UD is to fight for something in the General Assembly it should be for increased resources not a trustee.”

The university announced in November Mr. Grant and his wife had contributed $10 million to start a graduate college at UD, which it planned to name after the couple. A UD spokeswoman said Friday officials have chosen not to name the college after the Grants.

Mr. Grant’s presumptive replacement, Ms. DeMatteis, was selected by Gov. Carney almost a year ago to oversee reforms in the Department of Correction following a February 2017 inmate uprising at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center that left one correctional officer dead.

Her one-year term with the agency ends next month.

She has previously worked in private practice with a law firm and several other companies and was senior counsel for then Sen. Biden from 1994 to 2004.

Coincidentally, Mr. Grant was a strong Biden family ally and employed former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden for several months before his death in 2015.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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