State Sen. Darius Brown has been booted from yet another Senate committee following a heated altercation with a state representative.
The Wilmington Democrat is alleged to have verbally abused Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, D-New Castle, during a Nov. 8 press event where lawmakers gathered to witness Gov. John Carney’s signing of multiple criminal justice-related bills.
“He was aggressively rude toward me and stood in very close proximity, angrily yelling profanities in my face,” Minor-Brown said in a statement released Wednesday. “This took place in full view of many witnesses.
“The entire encounter was extremely unnerving and unsettling, enough so that I felt compelled to speak up. I have spoken to leadership in both chambers about this and received support from everyone, which has been comforting.”
The Senate’s actions are a good step toward holding Brown accountable, she said.
“It’s important to note that his actions and their consequences don’t only affect him and his colleagues, but they also can negatively impact the communities he’s been elected to serve,” she said. “I feel it is important to speak about this incident to acknowledge the truth — something so many people, especially women of color, struggle in silence with each and every day.
“But Sen. Brown also needs to take accountability for his own actions and seek help. He has displayed a disturbing pattern of behavior toward women, and this is just the latest example.”
In a statement announcing Brown’s removal from the Senate Capital Improvement (Bond) Committee, Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola, D-Newark, said that the incident was “deeply concerning to me and those who witnessed it.”
“Verbal abuse is abuse, full stop, and it cannot go unpunished,” Sokola said. “In the Senate, there will be consequences for behavior unbecoming an elected official. As such, I have removed Senator Brown from the Senate Capital Improvement Committee, effective immediately.”
Sokola asked Brown to sign up for an anger management course and promised to help connect him with those resources, according to the statement.
Brown did not respond to multiple requests for comment Wednesday.
When the General Assembly reconvenes on Jan. 11, 2022, Brown’s seat on the Bond Committee will be filled by Sen. Marie Pinkney, D-New Castle.
The charges allege that he punched a woman following a dispute over a social media post at the Taverna Rustic Italian Restaurant in Talleyville.
He then allegedly threw a glass of water at the woman and left the restaurant before police arrived. He turned himself in three days later.
He is expected to face trial on Dec. 1 on offensive touching and disorderly conduct charges, both misdemeanors.
Despite the allegations, Brown was hired in September to lead the partially-taxpayer-funded Wilmington HOPE Commission, a group that aims to reduce recidivism and violence.
The group said in a press release following his hiring that he emerged as the best candidate after a “rigorous, extensive search.”
During a Nov. 1 debate on a resolution asking the Delaware Supreme Court to provide guidance on removing from office indicted-State Auditor Kathy McGuiness, Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Felton, said a double standard exists between the two, noting that Brown has not been asked to resign or take a temporary leave of absence.
“We have one person who has recently been indicted and we have another person who is pending court who has already been charged,” Lawson said. “Are both of those cases going to be treated equally when the decision from the court comes back?”
He noted that Brown’s charges allege a violent crime, while those against McGuiness do not.
In an interview Wednesday, Lawson called Brown’s removal from the Bond Committee an “empty punishment.”
“We legislators cannot sit back and let women be treated like this,” Lawson said. “We will be judged for what we do, and for what we do not do.”
He said Brown has shown a propensity toward violence against women and that he should be removed from office.
Asked if he would call on Brown to resign, Lawson said that is something Democratic leadership needs to do.
“I would back them in that decision, certainly,” he said. “And if I am asked to weigh in on that decision, yes — I think that it is time that he be removed from office.”
In the meantime, he said an Ethics Committee investigation into Brown’s alleged actions is warranted, noting that he “would be agreeable to signing on to that.”
“The Delaware Democrat Party has done nothing,” Lawson said in a statement Wednesday. “Senate leadership has merely given Senator Brown a couple slaps on the wrist. Removal from committees has, apparently, only emboldened this behavior as he knows nothing serious will occur. It’s time we seriously consider a full Rules and Ethics Committee review of Senator Brown’s behavior and the allegations against him.”
In a statement from Senate Republicans sent Wednesday afternoon, the caucus said its members are “deeply concerned by what seems to be a pattern of inappropriate and, according to charges listed in a Delaware State Police report from May of this year, sometimes violent behavior towards women.”
“The vast majority of our caucus’s staff are women, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they feel safe within the workplace,” the statement says. “This conduct is unbecoming of a member of the Delaware General Assembly and Senator Brown must be held accountable. We believe serious consideration should be given to a Rules and Ethics Committee review.”
The Delaware Republican Party did not respond to requests for comment but Delaware Young Republicans Chairman Nick Miles called for Brown’s immediate removal, saying he is dangerous, particularly toward women.
Miles also noted that Attorney General Kathleen Jennings has failed to condemn Brown’s actions.
Late Wednesday afternoon Sen. Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, who chairs the the six member Rules & Ethics Committee said she planned to follow Brown’s trial, set for Dec. 1.
Whether or not he’s found guilty, she said, “I believe our Committee should review the facts of that case and other accusations of abusive behavior that may not have risen to the level of criminal conduct.”
She said she planned to convene the ethics committee “to adopt the procedures for investigating these matters and making whatever recommendations the Committee deems appropriate to the full Delaware State Senate.”
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