Sunday, August 7, 2022

Defense says auditor shouldn’t be to blame for contract payments

DOVER, Dell ( Associated Press) — Evidence presented Friday in state auditor Kathy McGuinness’s corruption trial suggests McGuinness expected an employee to handle a controversial contractor payment at the center of his criminal case, it said. Do not know if the employee will leave during the holiday.

Defense attorney Steve Wood shows a series of emails exchanged in September 2020 between McGuinness, former Chief of Staff Thomas Van Horn and administrative officer Shekwana Cousin to the jury about paying past due invoices to My Campaign Group. The firm received a no-bid communications services contract from McGuinness in 2019.

The auditor’s office submitted an invoice of $11,250 to the State Accounting Department for approval, but it was returned because the purchase order for the contract, which allocated a total of $45,000, had only $4,350 remaining.

McGuinness then asked Van Horn and Cousins ​​if it was possible to pay $4,900 out of the $6,900 extra in the form of a “direct claim” voucher outside the purchase order. Such payments are permitted when a change order or “after-the-fact waiver” request is submitted. Meanwhile, the amount of $4,900 meant that the auditor’s office would not have to wait for approval from the accounting department because the payment approval limit was $5,000.

“Yes, it’s possible to do,” Cousins ​​replied in an email, asking whether Van Horn and McGuinness would like to pay $4,350 under the purchase order and $9,250 as a direct claim, for a total of $9,250. 4,900 to be paid.

Five days later, McGuinness sent another email to Van Horn and the cousins, who were out of the office on vacation, telling them they were getting calls from My Campaigns Group owner Kristy Gross about receiving payments. With Cousins ​​out of office, McGuinness asked Van Horn to verify if any payments had been made.

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Van Horn told McGuinness and Cousins ​​that they had already shipped $4,350 under the purchase order, and that they would have to discount for the remainder.

McGuinness replied that Cousins ​​was authorized to pay $9,250, but indicated she was unsure of the process “because it’s not in my wheelhouse.” He questioned whether the $4,900 needed to be claimed outright and whether the remaining $2,000 needed exemption.

As part of their duties, Cousins ​​was responsible for submitting purchase orders, payment vouchers and discount requests. Unbeknownst to McGuinness and Van Horn, however, the cousins ​​had decided to step down and would not return from vacation.

“They didn’t know you left, and they were sending the email to the person who has been accused of discounting the latter, right?” Wood asked. “And you didn’t do anything… because you were gone.”

“Well,” said Cousin, who agreed with Wood that if he had filed a waiver request “the payment would have been fine.”

McGuinness, a Democrat elected in 2018, is responsible as the state auditor for rooting out government fraud, waste and abuse. He is being prosecuted on charges of theft and witness intimidation, and misconduct of official misconduct, conflict of interest and non-compliance with procurement laws. McGuinness is the first statewide elected official to face criminal trial while in office in Delaware.

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Prosecutors allege that, among other things, McGuiness orchestrated a no-bid contract for My Campaign Group, a firm he used as a campaign advisor in 2016 while running for lieutenant governor, then knowingly The contract was to avoid keeping the payment below $5,000. They were approved by the Accounts Department. They claim to split the funding sources for the final invoice and make two payments – one for $9,250 and the other for $1,950 using a state credit card – to avoid regulatory scrutiny and amount to illegal financial “structuring”. was a deliberate attempt.

Despite those allegations of concealment, the auditor’s office sought approval from the accounting department for a single payment of $11,250, more than double the $5,000 reporting limit, and actually obtained approval from the accounting department for the $9,250 payment. The director of the accounts department testified that employees at his agency made a mistake in granting that approval, but no one at that agency has been charged with a crime.

Prosecutors also alleged that McGuinness hired his daughter and his daughter’s best friend as temporary workers in 2020, even though other temporary workers left because of a lack of available work amid the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities allege that McGuiness engaged in the theft of state money and conflicts of interest in order to keep his daughter from work and to have control over taxpayer money with which she was paid.

Officials also allege that when their office workers learned of McGuinness’ misconduct, they tried to intimidate whistleblowers, including monitoring their email accounts.

The hearing resumed on Monday.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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