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More former employees, whistleblowers, testify at State Auditor corruption trial

kathy mcguiness state auditor trial
Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
Kathy McGuiness arrives at the Kent County Courthouse with her attorney, Steve Wood.

Day four of the State Auditor’s corruption trial saw the judge dismiss testimony from one witness and restrict two others.

Kathy McGuiness’ lawyer Steve Wood sought to dismiss testimony from 3 of the state’s witnesses - all former employees in the auditor’s office. He said it was “obvious” to him the purpose of calling them was to portray McGuiness as a bad person, and hope the jury convicts her for those reasons.

Prosecutors argued Bailey Brooks, an employee from August 2019 to March 2020, was there during the time in which McGuiness allegedly committed some of her crimes, but Judge William Carpenter agreed to dismiss her as a witness.

Carpenter also limited Auditor Dan Hamilton’s testimony to witness intimidation, and to not discuss a so-called “self-conducted investigation” into McGuiness.

Hamilton was reprimanded earlier this year for comments he made that were deemed inappropriate. including criticism of Chief of Staff Alaina Sewell’s attire and discussing the upcoming trial, while accusing the front office of being “shady” and covering up information for trial.

Melissa Schenck, an employee since 2016, testified her request to work from home during the pandemic, via her doctor’s recommendation, was only partially accepted, and rescinded after Schenck was seen eating with other employees. Schenck said she now only has to report to the office in person on Thursdays.

Testimony from another former auditor’s office employee took up the entire last half of the day, and was heard by the jury only after it was restricted in part by the judge.

Andrena Burd left a second stint at the Auditor’s office in December 2019 after discovering evidence on McGuiness’ computer she was monitoring employees' emails. Burd said she “was no longer comfortable with how things were being run in the office.”

Burd first started at the Auditor’s office in 2009 and supported McGuiness in 2017 when she called for release of the Grant Thorton report, which found former Auditor's Office employee and State Auditor candidate Kathleen Davies violated financial standards and created a “hostile workplace environment.”

Burd told McGuiness about the report before it became public, alleging to McGuiness that Davies awarded contracts to conflicts of interest and instructed auditors to structure payments to avoid the approval threshold.

The state points to Burd’s testimony as evidence McGuiness was conscious of her guilt when she allegedly committed similar crimes.

But McGuiness’ attorney Steve Wood noted Burd’s testimony was disregarded in Davies’ post-termination hearings and found to be full of hearsay, speculation, and misleading representations of policies and professional standards.

Between her two tenures at the auditor's office, Burd was an internal auditor at Delaware State University, and shared details of their books with McGuiness, and brought the information on an external hard drive when she returned to work for McGuiness.