State Auditor Kathy McGuiness charged with felonies and misdemeanors over use of taxpayer money
State Auditor Kathleen McGuiness faces felony and misdemeanor charges over her handling of contracts and hiring.
Delaware’s Department of Justice announced the indictment by grand jury Monday following more than a year of an ongoing investigation spurred by whistleblower complaints.
“The investigation has confirmed a clear and a disturbing pattern of behavior not only unethical, but it was against the law,” Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings told reporters Monday. “We uncovered corruption, nepotism, fraud and misconduct that implicated thousands of taxpayer dollars.”
McGuiness is charged with two felonies—theft and witness intimidation. She’s also charged with official misconduct, conflict of interest and noncompliance with state procurement law, which are misdemeanors.
DOJ accuses McGuiness of hiring her daughter and her daughter’s friend after several other employees had left the office due to lack of available work. The indictment states that neither McGuiness’ daughter or the friend were interviewed, and that the positions were not posted publicly. McGuiness’ daughter allegedly received more than $19,000, despite attending college while still employed by the Office of Auditor of Accounts and not utilizing the state's virtual private network to work remotely. The indictment states that McGuiness is named an owner of the daughter’s account into which the paychecks were deposited.
“This was done by the state Auditor, whose job is to literally protect your tax dollars from this kind of spending.” Jennings said.
DOJ also accuses McGuiness of improperly granting a contract to a company that had worked on her campaign. Thecontract with My Campaign Group, totalling $49,900, was allegedly structured to avoid public scrutiny and a competitive bid process.
“When her staff discovered her misconduct and did the right thing by speaking up, the Auditor, whose job is to be a government watchdog, engaged in an extensive pattern of surveillance and intimidation against those whistleblowers,” Jennings said.
Jennings says McGuiness could face up to 13 years in prison if convicted.
DOJ says about a dozen whistleblowers have come forward so far. They’re asking anyone with additional information to reach out to the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust.
“When I was sworn in as your Attorney General, I made a promise that I would fight for a justice system where nobody was above the law and nobody was beneath justice,” Jennings said Monday. “We have a solemn responsibility to uphold that promise, no matter your prominence, no matter your political position, and no matter the office you hold.”
At least one member of the state General Assembly is already calling for McGuiness’ resignation.
“I’m honestly floored at the extent [of] the corruption,” said Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, who watched Jennings’ announcement Monday. “It’s really gross.”
Rep. Kim Williams, who also attended the announcement, says the General Assembly should wait until DOJ’s investigation has concluded before pursuing impeachment.
“I think we should wait for Kathy Jennings’ case to finish so we can have all the evidence first, before we make that judgement,” Williams said.
“I’m not shocked, but it is disheartening to hear about the taxpayer dollars,” she added.
State Senate leadership declined to comment on the matter, noting the Senate would be responsible for holding a trial if McGuiness were impeached by the State House of Representatives, and would therefore like to remain impartial.
State House leadership did not respond to a request for comment.
Delaware Democratic Party Chair Betsy Maron said in a statement Monday that it would do a “disservice” to every Delawarean for McGuiness to continue in her job.
“When Delaware Democrats supported Kathy McGuiness, they did so on the promise that she would serve as a watchdog to prevent waste and abuse and uphold the highest ethical standard of transparency and fiscal responsibility,” Maron said in a statement. “Our volunteers and voters put their faith in her to do right by the people of Delaware. To see that she broke the public’s trust while executing her official duties is disheartening and downright embarrassing to our Party."
McGuiness’ office could not be reached for comment Monday.
This story has been updated.