Both House and Senate leadership made moves recently to remove State Auditor Kathleen McGuiness from office.
On July 14, the Delaware Senate filed a concurrent resolution in its latest effort toward the removal of McGuiness, who was convicted July 1 on three misdemeanors – conflict of interest, official misconduct and noncompliance with state procurement law. McGuiness is appealing the jury decision and continues to run for re-election, despite repeated calls from Democrat leadership to step down.
The concurrent resolution has been introduced and laid on the table awaiting action. It must be passed by both the Senate and House in order to hold a hearing on McGuiness’ removal. The hearing would be held within 10 days of passage of the resolution. A special session of the Senate or House has not yet been called for a vote, but the resolution instructs Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola, D-Newark, and Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, to “set the specific date and time of the hearing and to provide adequate notice of the hearing to the auditor and members of the General Assembly.”
“Kathleen K. McGuiness, auditor of accounts, is provided notice that the General Assembly intends to hold a hearing, in the form of a joint session of the General Assembly, on a date on or after 10 days following final passage of this concurrent resolution, on the removal of the auditor,” the resolution reads.
If the resolution is passed, a copy would be immediately sent to McGuiness.
McGuiness faces a primary challenge Sept. 13 from Democrat Lydia York of Wilmington.
The day after the Senate introduced the resolution, House leadership took a different approach to removing McGuiness, by sending Gov. John Carney a letter imploring him to remove McGuiness under the state constitution.
“The Delaware Constitution clearly spells out in Article XV, Section 6 that the governor must remove a public official who has been convicted of certain crimes: ‘All public officers shall hold their offices on condition that they behave themselves well. The governor shall remove from office any public officer convicted of misbehavior in office or of any infamous crime.’ [emphasis added],” the letter states.
The letter was signed by all but two representatives – Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, and Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, D-Wilmington. Schwartzkopf, who up to now had not weighed in on calls for McGuiness’ removal, was the top signature on the list.
The House letter was sent 10 days after the Senate sent a similar version, and Carney issued a statement saying he believes McGuiness cannot do her job effectively under the circumstances.
In his statement, Carney said he is waiting for the Superior Court to enter a judgment of conviction before he moves to remove McGuiness from office under Article XV, Section 6.
“The Delaware Supreme Court has made it clear that the governor has no power to act until after the entry of a judgment of conviction by the Superior Court,” he said, adding once the court enters a judgment, he will then determine his constitutional obligations.
Lisa Robinson, deputy court administrator for Delaware Superior Court, said once McGuiness is sentenced by the court, an order is entered on the conviction. “The defendant would then have 30 days to appeal the conviction to Delaware Supreme Court from the date of the order,” she said.
During McGuiness’ nearly three-week jury trial, her attorney Steve Wood made a motion of judgment on acquittal for all five counts on which she faced trial. She was found guilty on three misdemeanor charges, but the jury found her not guilty of felony theft and felony intimidation.
At the time, Superior Court Judge William Carpenter Jr. said he reserved the right to decide on acquittal until the jury’s decision was in.
A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.