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Testimonies from key witnesses in State Auditor corruption trial provide no help to state prosecutors

kathy mcguiness trial
Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
State Auditor Kathy McGuiness arrives at the Kent County Courthouse Wednesday with her attorney Steve Wood.

The owner of My Campaign Group, a consulting firm State Auditor Kathy McGuiness gave contracts to, took the stand on day five of the McGuiness corruption trial.

State prosecutors took a hit to their case when Christie Gross testified she wanted to keep the contract at $3,000 per month for personal reasons. She said McGuiness never asked her to restructure invoices or said the payments needed to be kept below the $5000 approval threshold.

McGuiness’ lawyer Steve Wood later presented Gross’ bank statements that show two payments from the State of Delaware over the $5000 threshold in August and September 2020.

McGuiness did ask for a second invoice in September for $1950 to cover payments Gross had not received from the first September invoice. Gross also requested it be sent through PayPal.

After cross examination, state prosecutor Mark Denney emphasized the state made two payments to Gross in September.

He also presented emails showing Gross helped to edit a speech for McGuiness for the Delaware Democratic Coordinating Campaign, despite having testified that she never aided the state auditor in political or campaign related matters.

Wood argued the speech was not for McGuiness alone, but for the Democratic Party in general, and noted she was not campaigning at the time of the speech.

McGuiness' daughter, Elizabeth "Saylar," took the stand after lunch and answered the prosecution's questions about her job title, duties, hours and specifics.

She claimed she was unsure of how she became aware of the intern position, what questions she was asked in the interview with Chief of Staff Thomas Van Horn and when it took place, or how and when she received the job offer.

Saylar said she was never paid for hours she did not work and her mother never received any of her daughter’s salary.

Prosecutors played a recording of Saylar’s phone interview with Deputy Attorney General David Skoranski in late September of 2021, one day after the end of Firefly Music Festival. Saylar said she was tired from the weekend and could not accurately answer Skoranski’s questions as well as she can now.

While Saylar told Skoranski she never used her personal cell phone or email for work, prosecutors presented evidence proving otherwise. But Saylar testified that she regularly had issues accessing her state email and Wood presented email evidence documenting those issues, while also arguing people “her age” text more than they email to explain messages between Saylar and her supervisor. Chief Of Staff Alaina Sewell.