What to Know
- A Delaware official responsible for rooting out government fraud and abuse has been indicted on public corruption charges.
- An indictment issued Monday charges State Auditor Kathleen McGuiness with felony counts of theft and witness intimidation. She also faces misdemeanor charges of official misconduct, conflict of interest and noncompliance with procurement laws.
- The charges include allegations that McGuiness hired her daughter last year even after other employees had to leave because of the lack of available work amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Delaware's state auditor, Kathleen McGuiness, has been indicted on five charges, including two felonies, for allegedly misusing public money and intimidating employees, the state attorney general said Monday.
McGuiness, a Democrat who took office in 2019, allegedly gave her daughter a no-show job that included use of a state-owned vehicle and paid more than $19,000 into a bank account in which McGuiness is an owner, the indictment said.
She also is alleged to have circumvented Delaware's government contracts procurement process by hiring a firm that worked one of her previous election campaigns for "communication services," the attorney general said. The firm, My Campaign Group, was paid $49,900 by McGuiness's office, which is $100 less than the threshold by which a state contract must be put through a public bidding process.
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She is also charged with felony intimidation for allegedly retaliating against whistleblowers, the attorney general said. McGuiness submitted dozens of e-record requests through the state's Department of Technology and Information "for the contents of OAOA employees’ e-mail accounts. This enabled McGuiness to monitor several employees’ e-mail communications in real time," the attorney general said.
"The indictment includes a great deal of evidence that the State Auditor repeatedly broke the law and systemically abused her power, beginning in her first year in office," Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings said in a statement. "Our investigation revealed a long trail of corruption, nepotism, official misconduct, intimidation, and fraud that implicated thousands of taxpayer dollars — all from an elected official who is supposed to be a watchdog for exactly this kind of misbehavior. We cannot — and I will not — tolerate criminal corruption, no matter who you are."
McGuiness's attorney, Steven Wood, said in a statement that she "is absolutely innocent of these charges."
"The Grand Jury’s Indictment, like all Grand Jury Indictments, was based upon a one-sided presentation from witnesses and documents selected by the Attorney General," Wood said. "The Indictment is full of misleading statements and half-truths."
He noted that "Delaware law does not prohibit family members from hiring family members, and there have been many instances of such employment all throughout state government—including in the Attorney General’s Office. It is also true that, like millions of Americans, Ms. McGuiness’s daughter worked remotely during the COVID pandemic. However, the Indictment’s assumption that the only way for a state worker to work remotely is by using the State’s email network is false."
Wood also defended her hiring of My Campaign Group as necessary for an office without a full-time public affairs employee, and rejected the indictment's charge of witness intimidation as "clearly the result of fanciful tales spun by former employees with an axe to grind."
McGuiness faces a maximum of up to 13 years in prison for the three misdemeanors and two felonies. The charges are conflict of interest, in violation of the State Officials’ Code of Conduct; felony theft; non-compliance with procurement law by structuring state payments; official misconduct; and felony witness intimidation.
She made no comment as she turned herself into the state Department of Justice on Tuesday.
Democratic Gov. John Carney declined to comment on the indictment through a spokesman.