Delaware State Auditor indicted for abuse of office

WILMINGTON, Del. – A Delaware grand jury has indicted State Auditor Kathleen McGuinness on five criminal charges, including two felonies.

According to officials, the Department of Justice’s Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust launched an investigation over a year ago after whistleblowers came forward alleging serious misconduct by the auditor, including abuse of tax dollars to benefit campaign associates, a pattern of deceit to evade spending oversight, nepotism, theft, and intimidation of employees.

Monday’s indictment charges McGuiness with five crimes: 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.

We’re told the investigation uncovered a sweetheart deal that McGuiness engineered with My Campaign Group, a political campaign consultant for her 2016 campaign. McGuiness was sworn in as auditor in 2019, and in November of that year, she allegedly approached the group for a state contract for professional services. Knowing that the state contracts under $50,0000 need not be subject to public bidding, the auditor entered in a contract for “communication services.” Over the course of the contract, My Campaign Group reportedly was paid $49,900, just $100 below the oversight threshold.

The indictment also charges that McGuinness structured payments on the contract to cover up her spending and avoid oversight. Delaware Division of Account rules required special approval for purchases or payments of $5,000 or more. The auditor reportedly directed invoices of more than $5,000 to be paid in increments under $5,000.

Early in her tenure, officials say McGuiness assumed hiring decision-making for casual-seasonal employees. In May and June of 2020, three casual-seasonal employees reportedly left OAOA due to a lack of available work, including one whom McGuiness fired. On that employee’s last day, and despite the lack of work, the indictment charges that McGuiness hired her daughter and daughter’s friend, both then seniors in high school, as casual-seasonal employees under her direct supervision. Despite the conflict of interest, neither of the two were reportedly interviewed or delegated to an employee without an ethical conflict. The indictment further alleges that McGuiness provided her daughter with access to a State car.

Later that year, McGuiness’ daughter reportedly enrolled at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, but remained on the OAOA payroll and continued to draw taxpayer paychecks over the next several months, despite not showing up to work, never logging in to work remotely, and rarely sending so much as an email. As of August 2021, McGuiness’ daughter, who was listed as OAOA’s Public Information Officer and later as an intern, had collected more than $19,000 in taxpayer’s checks, in addition to nearly $8,000 paid to the daughter’s friend.

McGuiness’ behavior concerned several employees, who questioned her behavior, and in some cases, came forward to the DOJ to file whistleblower complaints. The DOJ’s investigation revealed that McGuiness retaliated against real or perceived whistleblowers and engaged in a course of conduct to surveil those she saw as disloyal to her. McGuiness reportedly submitted dozens of “e-Records” requests to the Department of Technology and Information for the contents of OAOA employees’ email accounts, allowed her to monitor several employees’ email communications in real time. She also reportedly discriminated against employees who questioned her misconduct, and enacted office policies to limit the off-hours, personal activities of employees who she believed associated with former OAOA staff.

The investigation is ongoing, and the DOJ is urging anyone with information they believe is relevant to the investigation to contact DCRPT at 302-577-5400.

Categories: Crime, Delaware, Local News