Delaware auditor pleads not guilty to all charges against her

By Craig Anderson
Posted 10/12/21

WILMINGTON — Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness, accompanied by her attorney, pleaded not guilty to all charges against her Tuesday, the day after she was indicted by a New Castle County grand jury.

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Delaware auditor pleads not guilty to all charges against her

Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness and her attorney Steve Wood walk on King Street after leaving the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center on Tuesday in downtown Wilmington.
Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness and her attorney Steve Wood walk on King Street after leaving the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center on Tuesday in downtown Wilmington.
Special to the Delaware State News/Butch Comegys
Posted

WILMINGTON — Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness, accompanied by her attorney, pleaded not guilty to all charges against her Tuesday morning inside the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center in Wilmington, the day after she was indicted by a New Castle County grand jury on corruption charges.

Ms. McGuiness is facing single counts of felony theft and felony witness intimidation, along with misdemeanor charges of conflict of interest in violation of the State Code of Conduct, official misconduct and noncompliance with procurement law by structuring state payments.

She waived an arraignment and unsecured bail was set at $50,000. No-contact orders were put in place with any former Delaware Office of the Auditor of Accounts employee, and there is to be no discussion of the ongoing criminal investigation with current office employees, the Delaware Department of Justice said.

A first case review is scheduled for Monday. The proceeding is slated to start at 9:30 a.m. at the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center (the former New Castle County Courthouse) in Wilmington

Ms. McGuiness faces zero to 13 years in prison — eight years on the witness-intimidation charge (a nonviolent Class D felony), two years on the theft greater than $1,500 charge (a nonviolent Class F felony) and one year on each of the three misdemeanors. None of the charges require mandatory incarceration.

On Monday, Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced the results of an investigation that began more than a year ago that led to those charges against the auditor. The probe, she said, continues and was assisted by around a dozen whistleblowers.

The attorney general alleged abuse of office by Ms. McGuiness, which included “abuse of tax dollars to benefit campaign associates, a pattern of deceit to evade spending oversight, nepotism, theft, and intimidation of employees.”

Among the other accusations made by Ms. Jennings, Ms. McGuiness allegedly hired her teenage daughter Elizabeth for a seasonal job without an interview, and provided her access to a state-issued vehicle.

The Delaware Department of Justice’s Division of Civil Rights & Public Trust found that Ms. McGuiness allegedly orchestrated a state contract with the My Campaign Group (which consulted for her in an unsuccessful 2016 political campaign for lieutenant governor), masked her spending and avoided oversight.

Speaking at a press conference in Claymont Tuesday after receiving a flu vaccination, Gov. John Carney cited the ongoing investigation and said “ … I don’t have a lot to say there. Obviously what has been alleged is very concerning. We’ll see what we see from the investigation from here on out.”

Regarding Ms. McGuiness staying in office during the investigation, the governor said that “I think that’s a decision that she has to make with respect to that.”

Gov. Carney said he had not spoken to the General Assembly on a potential impeachment action and that “I’ve been focused on working on our new nominee for education secretary (Dr. Mark Holodick).”

Attempts to reach Delaware Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The Delaware Department of Justice declined to comment Tuesday, and an attempt to contact Ms. McGuiness’s attorney Steve Wood was unsuccessful.

Staff writer Tim Mastro contributed to this story.