DOVER — In a somewhat messy process, the General Assembly passed legislation Monday that seeks input from the Delaware Supreme Court on how it could go about removing State Auditor Kathy McGuiness from office.
The introduction and approval of legislation from both chambers happened during a special session that was advertised solely for the purpose of approving redistricting maps.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 63, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola, D-Newark, was approved in a 14-7 vote, which was split down party lines. The legislation was delivered to the House of Representatives who also introduced and approved similar legislation.
House Concurrent Resolution 42 was sponsored by Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover. It was approved by the House with 25 votes in favor, eight against, six not voting and two absent.
In addition to seeking clarity, the House’s resolution adds that the Judiciary Committee of the House and Senate would meet jointly on or before Dec. 17 to determine the process for removing Ms. McGuinness, a Democrat, from office if it is determined that reasonable cause for her removal exists.
As both pieces of legislation are awaiting consideration from the other chambers, no action will be taken until the General Assembly convenes in January.
“In recent weeks, the General Assembly has been faced with some significant questions about its constitutional obligations when it comes to a bill of address of the government,” Sen. Sokola said. “Some of these questions have come from the public and some have come from our own members — all of whom are rightly concerned about ethics and accountability in public service.”
On Oct. 11, Ms. McGuiness was indicted on five charges, including two felonies, regarding alleged misconduct in office. She pleaded not guilty to all of them.
Sen. Sokola said the Senate takes its role in oversight seriously, noting the task of removing Ms. McGuiness from office is an unprecedented process. With that in mind, he said the Senate is seeking to provide guidance for future panels through the process it is engaging in now.
“It’s important to note that we are doing so in a way that will provide guidance for the future of this body, rather than a predetermined path for the present,” he said.
Sen. Brian Pettyjohn cautioned the Senate against taking action against Ms. McGuiness who has not been convicted of a crime — only accused of misconduct.
“That is a road that we’re going down that is very dangerous,” he said. “We’ve had instances before of people that were charged with criminal conduct and this body has not done anything to those individuals until the conclusion of the criminal process.”
He suggested waiting until the “full facts are known, the allegations are tested.”
In the House, Minority Leader Danny Short, R-Seaford, spoke critically against the resolution. He said that his caucus was told redistricting would be the only legislation on the table Monday.
“So we are here today much like June 30th with terms that I just wrote down after our caucus meeting: Inconsistency, lack of transparency, lack of public awareness of what’s going on in this building,” Rep. Short said.
He said one member of his caucus already left for the day to return by the time the vote was taken.
“Our impression today was we’d deal with one thing called redistricting,” Rep. Short said.