The trial of State Auditor Kathy McGuiness has been set for Tuesday, May 31, in Delaware Superior Court in Wilmington.
McGuiness is facing charges of felony theft, intimidation, structuring, misconduct and conflict of interest. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges and a hearing will be held at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 27, on whether to dismiss the structuring charge. McGuiness’ attorney, Steven Wood, has already filed a motion to dismiss the intimidation charges, with a ruling from Judge William Carpenter still pending.
Legally speaking, structuring is the process of arranging financial transactions to evade reporting requirements. In this case, the state alleges McGuiness gave out contracts for the firm My Campaign Group designed to be just below the threshold to require a competitive bid process. According to the state’s indictment, My Campaign Group had worked with McGuiness on her 2016 run for lieutenant governor, and after she became auditor, McGuiness, a former Rehoboth Beach commissioner, hired the firm for “communication services” at a rate designed to be just below the threshold for public bidding.
In addition, Wood has asked for a motion to compel discovery in the conflict of interest charges against McGuiness. In that case, McGuiness is accused of giving no-show jobs in the auditor’s office to her daughter and her daughter’s friend.
Wood has requested to look at state contracts in all departments to find evidence that campaign contractors were given state contracts. Deputy Attorney General Matthew Denney has said McGuiness’ conduct reflects a state of mind to try to skirt around the law.
A hearing on whether to drop the intimidation charges was held April 7. Here, McGuiness is accused of trying to conduct email surveillance on employees who were aware of her misconduct. Wood argued the charge is vague and not specific on what McGuiness did to intimidate potential witnesses.
There was some question about whether the trial would even be held in May, as Carpenter contemplated whether to move the trial to late summer or early fall. Wood argued to keep the trial in May. Ultimately, the trial date was pushed back about two weeks from May 16 to May 31, with jury selection due to begin Thursday, May 26 in Wilmington.
Up in the air is whether McGuiness runs for another term as auditor. She has indicated to supporters she will, despite being asked to take a leave of absence by the state legislature. In January, the General Assembly asked the courts to opine on the procedure to remove McGuiness from office.
In a March opinion, the Delaware Supreme Court posited a hearing is required and the defendant must have 10 days’ notice in order to prepare a defense, if they choose. A hearing can be held in one of the legislative bodies, or there could be a joint hearing. Following the hearing, both the House and Senate would vote on a bill to address the governor in regard to removing an elected official, and if it passes each house by a two-thirds vote, the bill would be presented to the governor. So far, the General Assembly has not taken action.
Both sides are under a court-imposed gag order to not discuss the case publicly until trial.