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State Auditor McGuiness resigns after getting probation, fine

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State Auditor Kathy McGuiness addresses the media with her attorney, Steve Wood, after being sentenced to a year of probation for misdemeanor crimes while in office. | DBT PHOTO BY MADDY LAURIA

DOVER – Delaware’s Auditor of Accounts Kathy McGuiness was sentenced to one year of probation, a $10,000 fine and 500 hours of community service for two misdemeanors related to her time in office.

Her attorney, Steven Wood, also announced during an Oct. 19 sentencing at Kent County Superior Court that she resigned from office Tuesday night, and her resignation will become effective Nov. 4. He also said McGuiness plans to appeal her recent legal case to Delaware Supreme Court.

Gov. John Carney accepted McGuiness’ resignation on Wednesday, effective 4:30 p.m, rather than wait until November to appoint someone to hold the position for three months until a new auditor will be elected and sworn into office.

“You are a servant of the people and are expected … [to] recognize it is the office you hold that is important and not the person that holds it,” said Judge William C. Carpenter before handing down Wednesday’s sentence. “At times that has not occurred here. Your lack of good judgment and common sense at times is reflected in this case.” 

McGuiness was originally indicted last fall on felony theft, felony witness intimidation, noncompliance with procurement law, official misconduct and conflict of interest charges. She was found not guilty of the two felony charges during a jury trial this summer, and the third misdemeanor was dismissed, according to court records.

The state’s case against McGuiness, a low-profile elected official who is charged with auditing state spending to ensure effective appropriations, stems from claims that she misappropriated taxpayer funds and hired her teenage daughter and her daughter’s friend for office jobs. The charges she was found guilty of — official misconduct and conflict of interest — were related to “circumvent[ing] the hiring process” in those instances, as prosecutors described in a sentencing memo filed ahead of the Oct. 19 sentencing. 

The memo from prosecutors also asked the judge to levy a sentence including up to 30 days behind bars and tens of thousands of dollars in fines for her “lack of remorse.”

Wood, in responding documents and in court, said the prosecutors’ sentencing request relies on “half-truths and outright distortions of the record.” He asked the judge to instead impose a $1,000 fine “on top of the public criticism and political loss that she has already faced.”

During the sentencing, McGuiness read a prepared statement, saying it was “never my intention to betray the trust placed in me by my fellow Delawareans.” While her attorney said McGuiness did not and still does not believe hiring her daughter was wrong — and argued that it is not the only instance of such in the state — McGuiness said she was “disappointed in myself and deeply remorseful” and that she regretted her decision to hire her daughter.

McGuiness, who lost her Democratic primary bid for re-election last month to Lydia York, is believed to be the first statewide elected official to be convicted of crimes while in office. York will face Republican Janice Lorrah in the November general election, just days after McGuiness’ resignation would have taken effect.

“There’s important work that has to be done in the Auditor’s office over the next couple of months, including the annual comprehensive financial report. The governor plans to name a replacement to continue this important work,” Carney administration spokeswoman Emily David Hershmann said.

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