Following a Senate vote July 25 advancing a process to remove State Auditor Kathleen McGuiness from office, Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, essentially killed any action in the House.
“This isn’t taking decisive action, it’s political theater. I have no intention of calling the House into session to consider this resolution at this time,” Schwartzkopf said in a statement. “The Senate’s resolution would simply start a lengthy process to ultimately ask the governor to remove the state auditor from office – a request he’s not required to fulfill, and a request he’s indicated that he wouldn’t carry out at this time anyway.”
On July 5, Gov. John Carney issued a statement saying he intends to wait for the final determination of the court on McGuiness’ jury convictions of three misdemeanors before he takes action.
“The governor has no power to act until after the entry of a judgment of conviction by the Superior Court,” Carney wrote. “It is the governor’s responsibility under the law to await the final determination of the court, and then to determine his constitutional obligations after the entry of judgment.”
Superior Court Judge William Carpenter will enter a judgment of conviction when he sentences McGuiness, a date that has not been set. Following her jury conviction July 1 on official misconduct, conflict of interest and violation of state procurement law, McGuiness’ attorney Steve Wood filed motion for a new trial and another to acquit the charges she was found guilty on.
Once McGuiness is sentenced on charges, Carney said he can proceed with a constitutional process to remove “any public officer convicted of misbehavior in office or of any infamous crime.”
While Carney has not taken action yet, he indicated that he “believes [she] can no longer do her job effectively under the circumstances.”
Schwartzkopf, who supported McGuiness’ bid for auditor in 2018 after years of backing her election to the Rehoboth Beach Board of Commissioners, said he supports Carney’s intention to follow the Delaware Constitution on removing elected officials because it is the quickest and most direct process.
“Once the verdict has been entered as a conviction by the Superior Court, the governor is required by law to remove the official. After the verdict in the state auditor case has been entered, the governor must remove her from office. That is as clear and simple as it gets,” he said.
On July 15, Schwartzkopf was among two dozen legislators who signed a letter to Carney encouraging him to use his constitutional powers to remove McGuiness from office once the verdict has been entered.
Only Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, and Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, D-Wilmington, did not sign the letter. Baumbach was House sponsor of the Senate concurrent resolution to begin impeachment of McGuiness that passed the Senate 13-7 on July 25.
Senate leadership sought to hold McGuiness accountable through a legislative impeachment process, and President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, D-Newark, Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, and Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth Lockman, D-Wilmington, issued their own statement after Schwartzkopf’s announced his intentions.
“By his own words, the speaker is choosing a different course of action – one that both abdicates the legislature’s constitutional responsibility to a wholly separate branch of government, and also allows the auditor to continue collecting a taxpayer-funded paycheck while she awaits her sentencing,” they wrote.
McGuiness, a Democrat elected to office in 2018, continues to campaign for re-election despite repeated calls by Democrat leadership for her to resign since a 2021 grand jury indictment on five criminal counts – felony theft, felony intimidation, and the three misdemeanors she was eventually convicted on by a jury.
McGuiness continues to legally fight her conviction, and insists she did nothing illegal. She faces a Sept. 13 primary against Democrat Lydia York.