Delaware state auditor indicted on misconduct, felony theft charges -state AG

Oct 11 (Reuters) - Delaware state Auditor Kathy McGuiness has been indicted on criminal and other charges including felony theft, felony witness intimidation and official misconduct, state attorney general Kathy Jennings said on Monday.

McGuiness, who was the first woman to hold the office after being elected in November 2018, is accused of price-fixing state contracts and staffing her daughter as a ghost employee in late 2020 while she enrolled in college.

Attorneys also allege McGuiness structured a contract and manipulated invoices to avoid scrutiny, surveilled employees’ emails and intimidated whistleblowers.

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As state auditor, McGuiness' office is responsible for overseeing state government spending to catch fraud, waste and abuse of funds, according to its website.

Jennings said she has not spoken to McGuinness, but expects that she will be turning herself in.

“The investigation has confirmed a clear and a disturbing pattern of behavior that was not only unethical but it was against the law,” Jennings said. "I want to stress this investigation remains ongoing, but today the division of civil rights and public trusts sought and obtained an indictment against the defendant Kathy McGuiness."

McGuinness could face up to 13 years in prison if convicted, added Jennings, a fellow Democrat.

The offices of Governor John Carney and state auditor were not immediately available for comment.

The daughter, now a college student, was hired when she was a high school senior as a public information officer during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Prosecutors allege she did very minimal work in the first months of employment and did not work at all when she left for college between August and December 2020.

The daughter, who is now listed as an "intern" in the system, was paid out almost $20,000 during state employment, more than $2,300 of which was disbursed during her first semester in college, the indictment said. Paychecks were distributed to a bank account in McGuinness' name, the document said.

McGuinness was also charged with a felony for allegedly manipulating contracts by awarding a political campaign consultancy with two contracts in 2019 worth less than $50,000, court records said. Attorneys allege McGuinness structured the contracts and invoices to avoid scrutiny. About a dozen whistleblowers came forward over time, Jennings added.

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Reporting by Tyler Clifford in New York; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Chris Reese, Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis

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