Judge upholds intimidation charge against McGuiness

Still expected to rule on structuring charge
May 2, 2022

A Delaware Superior Court judge has denied a motion by State Auditor Kathy McGuiness’ attorney to drop a charge of intimidation.

Judge William Carpenter said in a May 2 opinion that McGuiness had sufficient information to know she was under investigation when she allegedly attempted to monitor the emails of whistleblowers within the auditor’s office. He said details in the state’s indictment were sufficient enough to proceed to trial. 

McGuiness, a former Rehoboth Beach commissioner, was indicted in October on five charges – felony theft, intimidation, conflict of interest, structuring of contracts and misconduct – and the state amended an indictment in February, providing more details of alleged misconduct.

McGuiness’ attorney, Steve Wood, filed a motion to dismiss the intimidation charge, along with motions to dismiss the structuring charge. At an April 7 hearing in Wilmington, Wood said the state’s indictment was vague as to how McGuiness allegedly intimidated potential witnesses.

Carpenter disagreed. “While it clearly could have been drafted with greater clarity, the court is convinced that the defendant has been provided sufficient information to allow her to defend the allegation and that information would prevent future prosecution for this conduct,” he wrote.

On April 13, Carpenter issued an opinion in response to Wood’s request for information held by the state.

In it, he required the state to provide Wood with a list of any employee hired by the office of a statewide elected official between Jan. 1, 2019 and present “who fits within the category of close relative” as defined by Delaware code. Carpenter also required the state to provide Wood with all professional service contracts approved by the attorney general and/or governor for $50,000 or less for the same time period.

Carpenter is expected to rule on a motion to dismiss a structuring charge. 

McGuiness is accused of structuring taxpayer-funded contracts to avoid public accounting regulations. The state alleges McGuiness gave contracts to the firm My Campaign Group designed to be just below the $50,000 threshold which would 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 hired the firm for “communication services.” 

At an April 27 hearing, Deputy Attorney General Mark A. Denney said McGuiness structured payments to My Campaign Group designed to avoid public scrutiny. Wood argued the state’s indictment does not make clear what crime McGuiness committed or what state statute was violated. He said the state alleges McGuiness violated the rules and regulations of the state’s budget and accounting manual, but that is not a crime.

McGuiness has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is scheduled to face trial beginning Tuesday, May 31 in Wilmington.

Melissa Steele contributed to this article.


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