Flowers, Barney spar in treasurer debate

By Tom Lehman 1:04am, July 9, 2014 - Updated 4:26pm, July 9, 2014
VIDEO: State Treasurer Chip Flowers and his Democratic primary opponent Sean Barney speak during Tuesday's debate.
Incumbent State Treasurer Chip Flowers and his Democratic challenger Sean Barney weren't shy about trading barbs Tuesday night in a debate at Widener School of Law.

WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.

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During the debate, which was hosted by the Society of Professional Journalists Delaware Chapter, Flowers (D) defended his disputes with the Cash Management Policy Board during his tenure as Treasurer.

"Most states have gotten rid of these cash management boards, we still have them and there was a fundamental problem with this board because this board has resistance to change," Flowers said.

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Barney, a former aide to U.S. Senator Tom Carper and policy director for Governor Jack Markell, disagreed with Flowers' claim and was critical of the incumbent.

"He has tried to go around the cash management policy board, he has at times tried to do away with it," Barney said. "I think that would be a very dangerous thing."

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Flowers also backed his trips to to meet with banks contracted by his office for performance reviews and took a shot at Carper, who once served as Delaware's treasurer and backed Barney in the primary last month.

"We need an activist treasurer going out there, doing the things that I'm doing and that's why results are happening. We're not going to go back to the old model, I guess the Carper days, where we just sit there and wait for everybody to come to us," he said.

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Barney argued the treasurer can do those evaluations in Delaware and criticized Flowers' practice of requiring banks contracted by the Treasury office to pay for up to $5,000 in associated travel costs.

"The problem with it is the appearance. There's the reality of corruption and the appearance of corruption," he said.

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Discussion also became heated while both candidates fielded questions about financial literacy initiatives led by the Treasurer's office.

"I think it's a position that deserves to be a full-time position. It deserves the full dedication of a person who's taking a six-figure salary from the taxpayers of the state," Barney said.

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Flowers, the founder and president of a procurement law firm called Flowers Counsel Group LLC, was rankled by his challenger's comment.

"You just made a very serious allegation and insult to my character and integrity. I serve the people of Delaware full-time, non-stop and I will continue to do so," he responded.

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The Democratic Primary for state treasurer is scheduled for September 9.

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