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State Auditor-elect undecided on Rehoboth commissionership

State, city laws silent on McGuiness holding both offices
November 9, 2018

Story Location:
229 Rehoboth Ave.
Rehoboth Beach  Delaware  19971
United States

A couple of weeks ago, Rehoboth Commissioner Kathy McGuiness said she would wait to decide whether she would continue to serve as commissioner until after the Nov. 6 general election.

Less than 24 hours after her decisive win in the race over Republican James Spadola – she received nearly 206,000 to his nearly 150,000 – McGuiness said she hadn’t made up her mind.

“Quite honestly, I haven’t given it too much thought,” said McGuiness, who has been a commissioner for 17 years. “I’ve been quite busy with the campaign.”

McGuiness, the first woman elected to the statewide position in Delaware history, said she would really like to have a conversation with Mayor Paul Kuhns before making any decision.

Kuhns is on record saying he thinks it’s a conflict of interest for McGuiness to hold both positions, but the day after the election, Nov. 7, he said he hadn’t talked with McGuiness yet, and wanted to wait and see what her thoughts are.

“I haven’t really thought about it too much,” he said. “I’m assuming she’ll take office in January, so we have a few months to work on it.”

Asked if she had a comment on Kuhns’ statement, McGuiness said, “Nope.” She said she’ll be sitting in her seat at the board of commissioners next scheduled meeting, Friday, Nov. 16.

As far as he’s concerned, Kuhns said it’s a timing issue. He said he expects to talk with McGuiness soon, and then he’ll speak with remaining commissioners about moving forward with a possible replacement.

Prior to the election, State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove said Rehoboth’s charter may address the issue, but otherwise state law doesn’t prevent McGuiness from holding both positions.

A reading of Rehoboth’s charter reveals the issue of a commissioner holding a statewide position at the same time is not addressed.

The Delaware Public Integrity Commission is tasked with ensuring elected officials follow the state’s code of conduct.

Deborah Moreau, commission counsel, said Nov. 7 that typically when a person is elected to office they’ll ask for an advisory opinion on possible conflicts of interest. She said as state auditor, there could be a conflict for McGuiness if the city is receiving any state money, and an audit is needed to see how that money is being spent.

Moreau said she can’t comment on whether McGuiness has made a request to the integrity commission.

McGuiness’ thoughts on win

McGuiness is pleased with her win, saying the key to victory was working hard and staying engaged though the entire campaign cycle.

McGuiness said unlike her unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor two years ago, she had name recognition this time around. She said while people in Sussex were aware of the things she had accomplished, statewide it was a different story.

“When you’re first introduced, people want to make sure you’re genuine,” she said. “That’s happened this time around. More people have gotten to know and engage with me.”

During the campaign, Spadola said many times, McGuiness, a Democrat, shouldn’t be elected because it wasn’t a good idea to have a person of the same political party auditing fellow Democrats.

McGuiness said that wasn’t an issue for her.

“I’ve been saying all along we need to get politics out of this office,” she said. “It’s about maintaining the character of the office.”

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the right vote totals for Kathleen McGuiness and James Spadola.

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