School trustee ends reappointment bid amid harassment claims

(AP) — Gov. John Carney has tapped an attorney currently helping lead Delaware’s prison reform efforts to serve as a University of Delaware trustee.

Carney’s announcement Friday of the nomination of Claire DeMatteis comes after Delaware’s Senate president refused to act on Carney’s previous request to reappoint Wilmington attorney and top Democratic Party donor Stuart Grant to UD’s board of trustees.

Grant, who has also donated millions to UD, has been accused by a former employee of his law firm of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment for women. The accusations surfaced in court documents in a lawsuit filed by Grant’s firm against the former employee.

In an email Friday, Elise Martin, a spokeswoman for Grant’s law firm, Grant & Eisenhofer, described the allegations against him as irresponsible and “completely untrue.”

In a May 16 letter hand-delivered to Carney, Grant asked that his name not be submitted for re-nomination, noting that he had been told by UD officials that Senate President Pro Tem David McBride was not sure he had the votes to confirm Grant.

“It seems that three year old unsubstantiated allegations are enough, in his political climate, to make a number of senators gun-shy,” wrote Grant, who was appointed to the UD board by Democratic Gov. Jack Markell in 2011.

Grant also took a shot at faculty and students at the university who have objected to a proposed new graduate college being named for him. Last year, the school announced that it would name the graduate college after Grant and his wife after they pledged $10 million. The university’s soccer stadium already bears the names of the couple, who gave $1.5 million to renovate the facility.

“It is very disappointing that there are some at UD, a place where we have given so much over the past seven years, who would turn on me so quickly with no support or factual backing,” Grant wrote. “I have done nothing wrong. But I am not naive to the political climate in which we now live.”

University spokeswoman Andrea Boyle Tippett said Friday that the school is seeking new donations to support the graduate college and has decided not to name the college after the Grants.

The allegations against Grant were contained in a 2015 email by lawyer Reuben Guttman to a fellow Grant & Eisenhofer attorney. The email was included in court documents filed by Guttman in response to a lawsuit filed against him in 2017 by Grant’s firm. The lawsuit accuses Guttman of stealing clients away from Grant & Eisenhofer, specifically a plaintiff in a potentially lucrative whistleblower lawsuit, when he left to start his own law firm. Guttman denies the allegations.

In the email, Guttman referred to a “hostile work environment for women” and noted that he had heard “more than I care to about Stuart’s harassment of female associates….” He also indicated that a co-worker believed the firm could “implode” because of Grant’s behavior.

“That the mass torts practice can basically run on misrepresentations is stunning to me or that the consumer practice jumps into cases just to shake down a dollar is disturbing,” Guttman added.

In his letter to Carney, Grant said there is no factual basis for Guttman’s allegations, and he criticized the campus newspaper, The Review, and the News Journal of Wilmington for printing stories based on them.

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