Witness testimony continued June 27 in a criminal case against State Auditor Kathy McGuiness, with several former auditor’s office employees telling a jury they were harassed and degraded during their tenure under McGuiness.
McGuiness is accused of felony theft, felony intimidation, official misconduct, conflict of interest, and violation of state procurement law in the Kent County Superior Court trial that began June 14.
Former chief administrative auditor Dawn Haw-Young said she first reached out to the Public Integrity Commission in October 2020, and then the Department of Justice over payroll concerns that included McGuiness’s daughter. Haw-Young said she felt she had a responsibility to report any potential misspending by the office. Eventually, she said, she was given a performance improvement plan that stated she made errors in a special report, and also did nothing to reprimand other auditors accused of making faces and intimidating seasonal employees, including McGuiness’s daughter.
“Nobody ever came to me and said they felt uncomfortable,” said Haw-Young, who crouched behind a computer monitor while on the stand, blocking her view of McGuiness and her attorney Steve Wood. “It seemed like everything I did wasn’t good enough,” she said.
Haw-Young even included a “can’t win” hashtag on one correspondence to her immediate supervisor in defense of her job performance. After she left the auditor’s office to work for the Department of Transportation, Haw-Young said she found out from a DelDOT information technology employee that McGuiness was still monitoring Haw-Young’s email.
Laura Horsey, who worked in the auditor’s office for more than 16 years before leaving in 2021, said she first spoke to a Department of Justice investigator in May 2020.
Horsey recalled a reprimand she received during a meeting with school administrators who were confused about an upcoming audit. When she replied to an administrator who addressed her directly, she said, she was reprimanded for being insubordinate. “I believe it was for speaking at all,” she said.
Horsey said she was merely providing professional expertise to a school administrator, and she filed a grievance following her reprimand.
Lisa Elder, who worked at the office 2017-20, said she first spoke with a Department of Justice investigator about issues in the office in early 2020. The state’s case of felony intimidation against McGuiness hinges on what McGuiness knew and when, and whether she retaliated against employees. Early in the trial, Wood said McGuiness did not know about a DOJ investigation before September 2021.
Frank Robinson, DOJ investigator and former 20-year New Castle County police officer, told the jury that he has never been accused of dishonesty. “Only in this one,” he said about the McGuiness case, adding he would not knowingly provide inaccurate information.
Robinson said although initial search warrants mentioned payments made to My Campaign Group, they were later corrected. The wording of the search warrant is at issue in a potential defense motion. Wood’s cross-examination of Robinson did not begin before the Cape Gazette’s press deadline.
The trial was originally expected to wrap up June 28, but could go into July depending on how many witnesses defense attorney Wood brings to the stand. Already, two of the five alternate jurors have been absent because of illness. One tested positive for COVID-19.