A jury has found Auditor Kathy McGuiness guilty of three misdemeanor charges of Structuring, Official Misconduct, and Conflict of Interest, but found her not guilty of two felony charges of theft and witness intimidation.
McGuiness has defiantly said she is running for reelection any way and has no intention of resigning. So we Democrats have a choice in the primary: a convicted criminal or a fine candidate in Lydia York.
And our state legislature has a choice. They cowardly passed the decision to remove her from office last year to a legal study group. Now they either must return to a special session to remove her from office this month, or they will all be endorsing a criminal in office through their inaction.
Here is Attorney General Kathy Jennings‘ statement: “From the moment I took office, I promised that no one would be either above the law or beneath justice. Today’s guilty verdict confirmed that. After weeks or grueling trial and mistreatment of whistleblowers, the state auditor — whose job is to protect our state from waste, fraud, and abuse – has been found guilty of three crimes by a jury of her peers. I am grateful for the jury’s judgment, for the excellent work of our trial team, and above all else for the courage of the whistleblowers and witnesses who came forward and made accountability possible. Our office’s — and the jury’s —message is clear: abuse of office will not be tolerated in Delaware.”
Will our Senators and Representatives tolerate it? That remains to be seen.
UPDATE: Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, and Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman issued a joint statement in response to the jury’s conviction of State Auditor Kathy McGuiness:
“Today a Kent County jury found State Auditor Kathy McGuiness guilty on three counts that, taken together, show a brazen willingness to circumvent the same open government laws and accounting standards she was elected to enforce.
When Auditor McGuiness was charged in November, the Senate Majority Caucus immediately called on her to take a leave of absence, citing concerns about her ability to execute her official duties given the gravity of the transgressions outlined in the indictment.
Now that she has been found guilty of official misconduct, illegally structuring contracts to flout procurement laws, and conflict of interest, we call on her to resign immediately. Any public official engaged in these behaviors is unfit for public office, but especially the state’s top financial watchdog.
While Auditor McGuiness considers her options and political future, the Delaware State Senate will carefully consider its Constitutional role in ensuring accountability and that the best interests of Delawareans are served.”
That’s a good start. Now let’s see if Pete Schwartzkopf can issue a similar statement. If he does not, he will reveal himself to be covering for a criminal.
UPDATE 2: House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and House Majority Whip Larry Mitchell issued the following joint statement concerning Friday’s conviction of the state auditor:
“We put our trust in our elected officials – especially those whose responsibility is to serve as a watchdog for the state’s finances – and when you lose that trust, you cannot serve in that position any longer. Since the auditor was initially charged, we have maintained that we should wait and let the legal process play out. It has, and the auditor has been found guilty of several crimes that call into question her fitness to serve in this office. As a result, the auditor should step down from her position and resign immediately.
“Additionally, the Delaware Constitution is clear: If the auditor will not resign, the governor must exercise the powers he has to ‘remove from office any public officer convicted of misbehavior in office.’ She cannot continue to serve in this position, and the governor can take action to remove her from office should she refuse to resign.”
Notice who is missing. I am told that the Good Speaker could not be reached in time and the remaining Leadership team wanted to get the statement out.
Senator Sarah McBride: “The State Auditor must resign immediately. It is crystal clear that she should no longer have access to the office and power she has used to break the law for the benefit of her family and associates. The crimes she has been found guilty of are unacceptable for any elected leader, but they are particularly egregious for the very official tasked with protecting taxpayer money and resources.
I believed last Fall that given the nature of the charges, the public trust had been shattered and the public interest demanded her resignation or removal. Today’s verdict only reinforces that belief. If she continues to refuse to resign, I will continue to support pursuing any Constitutional path to protect the residents of this state from an elected official who has been found guilty beyond all reasonable doubt of unethical and illegal behavior.”
Senator Laura Sturgeon: “I reiterate my conviction that Auditor McGuiness must resign, consistent with the statement I made when she was charged, and compelled by the urgency presented by her conviction on three counts, including official misconduct.”