McGuiness faces new intimidation details

Employees castigated, reindictment states
April 1, 2022

A reindictment of State Auditor Kathleen McGuiness was issued by a grand jury March 28, detailing complaints from employees who say McGuiness castigates those she deems disloyal.

The latest indictment filed in New Castle County Superior Court outlines all the original counts announced Oct. 11 – felony theft, felony intimidation, and misdemeanors of conflict of interest, structuring payments that are noncompliant with procurement law, and official misconduct – with more details surrounding the felony intimidation charge.

“[McGuiness] discriminated against employees who questioned her misconduct, and enacted office policies to limit the personal activity of employees who associated with former employees,” the indictment reads. “She and her most senior staff continued castigating employees – witnesses – they deemed disloyal.”

The indictment details three intimidation incidents, the first occurring on Feb. 11 when McGuiness called an all-staff meeting to voice her displeasure over perceived leaked information. 

“She told them that she used to have the staff yell out loud, ‘Confidentiality!’ and that confidentiality means what happens in this office, stays in this office,” court records read. 

Near the end of the meeting, the indictment states, McGuiness warned, “We are gonna have a zero tolerance for negativity.”

Six days later, on Feb. 17, records state, McGuiness issued a formal, written reprimand to one witness in part for implying that someone at the Office of Auditor of Accounts was involved in illegal conduct in the workplace, and also saying the front office was shady and everything done in the front office is a cover-up for May – a reference to when McGuiness’s trial is expected to begin.

“The employee was told their speech was dangerous to morale and that they were hereby notified that it is inappropriate to discuss certain topics, including but not limited to individuals’ court cases and the employee’s view on the legality of an individual’s employment,” the indictment reads.

The final incident detailed in court documents happened on March 2 when the record states McGuiness called an all-staff meeting that included chastising staff for viewing the OAOA’s Joint Finance Committee hearing without express permission. The meeting began with a call-and-response initiated by McGuiness and senior staff, who asked “What is our office motto” and had staff answer with “Confidentiality,” according to the indictment.

“According to witnesses, the conduct demanding confidentiality and lamenting reports outside the office made employees/witnesses feel uncomfortable. They believed the exhortations regarded more than the office’s work and were warnings not to continue to report wrongdoing,” the indictment reads.

McGuiness, a Democrat elected in 2018, remains in office despite repeated calls  from state legislators and the Democratic Party for her to resign or take a leave of absence. The Delaware Supreme Court recently issued an opinion on the process to remove an elected official from office. The opinion outlines the legislative process needed to present a bill to the governor, who would then remove the elected official. Legislative officials have not said whether they will initiate the process to remove McGuiness from office.

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