Attorney general: Auditor’s office violated FOIA

Petitioner requested work done by consultant at center of recent trial
September 30, 2022

The Attorney General’s Office has found the state auditor’s office in violation of the Freedom of Information Act, in the latest battle between the two offices.

In a letter sent Sept. 23, Chief Deputy Attorney General Alexander Mackler informed a petitioner that the auditor’s office is in violation of FOIA after failing to respond to his request for information within the law’s 15-day requirement.

“We find [the auditor’s office] violated FOIA in its failure to respond to your FOIA request and recommend [the auditor’s office] provide a response to your request within 15 business days of the date of this determination. We caution [the auditor’s office] to monitor its FOIA requests and respond in a timely manner as required by FOIA,” Mackler wrote.

On July 29, the petitioner had requested any and all policy analyses, reports or other work products for the auditor’s office prepared by My Campaign Group, Innovative Consulting or Christie Gross from 2018 to present. About a month later, after hearing nothing, the petitioner contacted the Attorney General’s Office about the auditor’s failure to respond to the request for information.

Gross and her consulting companies, My Campaign Group and Innovative Consulting, were at the center of a payment-structuring charge against State Auditor Kathleen McGuiness, who was indicted by a grand jury on several criminal counts in 2021. McGuiness faced trial in 2022, and was found guilty by a jury of official misconduct, conflict of interest and noncompliance of state procurement law. McGuiness was found not guilty on felony counts of theft and intimidation.

Superior Court Judge William Carpenter later acquitted McGuiness on the procurement charge.

McGuiness is set to be sentenced Wednesday, Oct. 19, on the misdemeanor charges of official misconduct and conflict of interest in connection with hiring her daughter to work in the office.

On Sept. 13, McGuiness lost the Democratic primary to challenger Lydia York, following months of calls by Democratic leadership for McGuiness to resign.

During the nearly three-week trial, prosecutors with the Attorney General’s Office said McGuiness violated state procurement law by giving the campaign group a no-bid contract beneath the $50,000 amount that would have required a bidding process, and that invoices submitted by the group were intentionally structured beneath $5,000 to avoid Division of Accounting approval. 

On the stand, Christie Gross, owner of My Campaign Group and Innovative Consulting, testified that McGuiness approached her about working for the office as a contractor after McGuiness was elected auditor in 2018. Gross said she billed the office $150/hour for work and normally put in 15-20 hours per month.

During that time, Gross said she worked on the initial phase of a Medicaid audit, looked into prescription drug pricing, and worked on a COVID National Taskforce Project for the auditor’s office.

She said she only billed for hours worked, and initial invoices came in under $5,000, although some payments exceeded $5,000.

The auditor’s office did not respond when asked whether the office had responded to the petitioner.


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