Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Witness Recruitment in Auditor Trial, Investigator Calls

DOVER, Del. ( Associated Press) — Delaware State Auditor Cathy McGuinness’s office workers did not take kindly to hiring the auditor’s daughter and a friend for part-time work, according to testimony Thursday in McGuinness’ criminal corruption trial.

Betty’s friend Virginia Bateman told jurors that the staff at the auditor’s office was “externally harsh” to her and Elizabeth McGuinness after being hired as “casual-seasonal” employees in the spring of 2020.

Bateman described himself as Elizabeth’s best friend, “I walked by her and we never exchanged anything.” “From day one, … they would talk behind our backs.”

Bateman’s testimony came on the fourth day of the trial of Kathy McGuinness, a Democrat who was elected in 2018 to the office responsible for rooting out government fraud, waste and abuse.

McGuiness faces charges of theft and witness intimidation, and offenses of official misconduct, conflict of interest, and non-compliance with procurement laws.

Prosecutors allege that, among other things, McGuiness hired his daughter and Bateman as temporary workers in May 2020, even though other temporary workers left because of a lack of available work amid the coronavirus pandemic. They also say that Elizabeth McGuinness was given special assistance, such as access to a state vehicle, and continued to be paid after she left for college in South Carolina.

Bateman testified that he and Elizabeth McGuinness usually traveled to work with Kathy McGuinness in their state vehicle, and Bateman was always driving. She also said that she usually drives when she and younger McGuinness will be driving work-related errands in the auditor’s state-issued vehicle.

During Bateman’s testimony, jurors also listened to a recording of a phone call received in June 2021 from Franklin Robinson, the case’s principal investigator.

Robinson, who was called to the stand to play the recording, began the phone call with the Justice Department by identifying himself as an investigator and telling Bateman that he was investigating how with casual-season workers. was dealt with. But he did not clarify that he was referring specifically to employees in the auditor’s office until Bateman asked him, and did not say that he was conducting a criminal investigation. Then he asked her briefly how she was hired and what she did while in the auditor’s office.

Bateman testified that, after the phone call, he texted Elizabeth McGuinness and also called Kathy McGuinness, but could not remember exactly what she had told them.

Kathy McGuinness has been charged with bullying and retaliating against employees who reported her alleged wrongdoing or who she believed might cooperate with investigators. Prosecutors allege that the threats, which involved monitoring employees’ emails, began in early March 2019, but defense attorney Steve Wood argued that McGuinness did not learn until September 2021 that she was the subject of a criminal investigation. . About three months after receiving a phone call from Bateman, followed by a conversation with Robinson.

In other testimony Thursday, the director of the State Division of Accounting, Jane Cole, admitted that employees at her agency made mistakes in approving certain payments by McGuinness’s office to an outside contractor because the payments brought up the total amount in the purchase order. . to the contract – and no change order or discount request was submitted.

Cole also testified that the way McGuinness’s office made payments, including using credit cards and resubmitting small payment vouchers for approval, was “improper” under state accounting rules.

Prosecutors allege that McGuinness, in his role as auditor, improperly orchestrated a no-bid “Communications Services” contract for My Campaign Group, which he called a campaign adviser when he ran for lieutenant governor in 2016. then intentionally put down the contract payment. $5,000 each to avoid receiving payments approved by the accounting department.

Questioning the appropriateness of how My Campaigns Group was paid, Cole also admitted under cross-examination that – contrary to the allegations in a search warrant affidavit signed by Robinson in September 2021, and in an October 2021 indictment – ​​the auditor The U.S. office did not make multiple payments of less than $5,000 to the My Campaign Group in the fall of 2020 to pay two invoices of more than $9,000 each.

Nation World News Desk
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