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State auditor must be above suspicion

October 19, 2021

The mission statement for the Delaware state auditor says the office “serves Delawareans by ensuring accountability in the use of taxpayer dollars to identify fraud, waste and abuse …”

That mission has now been compromised.

Last week, Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced five criminal charges, including two felony counts, against State Auditor Kathleen McGuiness, a fellow Democrat.

According to the AG’s website, McGuiness hired her daughter and a friend to work for the office, under her direct supervision. The daughter was paid $19,000 and continued to receive checks even after she left for college. According to the AG, McGuiness’s daughter never logged on to work remotely. McGuiness was listed as an owner of the account where her daughter’s checks were deposited.

The AG’s office said it opened its investigation more than a year ago after whistleblowers came forward alleging “abuse of tax dollars to benefit campaign associates, a pattern of deceit to evade spending oversight, nepotism, theft, and intimidation of employees.”

McGuiness has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and she deserves her day in court. But this is about more than one person’s right to a fair trial. The nearly 1 million people of Delaware deserve government they can trust.

How can Delawareans be confident the state auditor’s office is rooting out “fraud, waste and abuse” if the state auditor herself is charged with “fraud, waste and abuse?” By a fellow Democrat.

It would be as if the state police superintendent continued in office after being charged with felony theft. It would be untenable.

At the least, McGuiness should take a leave of absence until the matter is settled. If she doesn’t, the governor and the state Legislature should determine the basic facts of the case, which should be readily available, and remove her if necessary. Either McGuiness hired her daughter and a friend or she didn’t.

This wouldn’t be a criminal proceeding. McGuiness wouldn’t face criminal penalties. That would be up to the courts to decide.

McGuiness’s attorney has said her actions were within the law. Perhaps the courts will agree, but a criminal case could take a year to decide. That’s too long for Delawareans to wait. Given the sensitive nature of the office’s mission, the state auditor must be above suspicion. No matter the outcome of the case, that’s no longer possible.

The News Journal noted that Republicans “have been uncharacteristically sympathetic to McGuiness.”

Of course they have. They would love to make Democratic corruption the issue next fall. The Democratic state auditor facing trial for felony theft? That’s election-year gold!

According to the News Journal, Gov. Carney, another fellow Democrat, has said it’s up to McGuiness to decide if she should continue holding office. That would be a huge mistake.

Don Flood
Lewes
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