Last month, Delaware state auditor Kathleen McGuiness was found guilty of three misdemeanor charges, including official misconduct, conflict of interest, and structuring a contract to avoid a procurement policy. Since McGuiness’ guilty verdict, Senate Democrats have called for her resignation.
McGuiness is the first sitting official in Delaware to be charged with a crime.
The state auditor was accused of arranging payments to a public policy communications company that strategically sidestepped Delaware’s procurement guidelines. The payment amounts were just under the legal threshold. Payments above $50,000 require a bidding process.
The other two misdemeanor charges against McGuiness were related to the hiring of her daughter, Saylar McGuiness. McGuiness hired Saylar under her direct supervision and allowed her benefits that were not available to other staff. For example, McGuiness permitted her daughter to work remotely, drive a state vehicle, and “bank hours.”
The structured payments and conflict of interest charges ultimately amounted to the official misconduct charge. Two felony counts of theft and witness intimidation were dropped.
Attorney General Kathy Jennings stated in a press release, “From the moment I took office, I promised that no one would be either above the law or beneath justice.” She continued, “I am grateful for the jury’s judgment, for the excellent work of our trial team, and above all else for the courage of the whistleblowers and witnesses who came forward and made accountability possible. Our office’s — and the jury’s –message is clear: abuse of office will not be tolerated in Delaware.”
WMDT spoke to McGuiness shortly after the ruling and said that the jury received a “biased, cherry-picked account of the truth.”
Governor John Carney released a statement in response to pressure from the senate to remove McGuiness from office. He explained that “the Governor has no power to act until after the entry of a judgment of conviction by the Superior Court.”
Two weeks after the verdict, Delaware Democratic House Caucus wrote Governor John Carney. The letter stated, “The crimes the State Auditor has been found guilty of meet the Constitutional criteria of ‘misbehavior in office,’ and that as a result, you are obligated to remove her from office upon entry of a judgment of conviction by the Superior Court.” Senate voted 13-7 to hold a removal hearing for McGuiness.
Since then, Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf voiced support for McGuiness. He called the senate’s actions nothing more than “political theater.” Senate cannot move forward with the removal hearing without Schwartzkopf’s approval.
Schwartzkopf argued that, even if a hearing was held and the senate voted to remove McGuiness, the ruling would only be a vote “to ultimately ask the governor to remove the state auditor from office – a request he’s not required to fulfill, and a request he’s indicated that he wouldn’t carry out at this time anyway.”
McGuiness has made it clear that she will “absolutely not” be resigning.
This week, WRDE-LD interviewed McGuiness about her thoughts on the guilty ruling. The auditor insists that she is blameless. “I profess my innocence maybe other folks should do the same.”
In response to the payment structuring charge, she stated, “I did work with the owner in 2016 but we are not friends.” McGuiness continued, “He did not do anything for me since then. He is very talented with communications and policy they do not just work on campaigns.”
McGuiness is running for re-election in September’s primary against candidate Lydia York.