Corruption: Delaware auditor is a cautionary tale

States rely on their auditors to be the guardians against fraud, waste, abuse and opacity when it comes to how the public’s money is spent. Delaware residents have reason to be worried this week, after their state Auditor Kathleen McGuiness was indicted Monday on public corruption charges including felony counts of theft and witness intimidation, and misdemeanor charges of official misconduct, conflict of interest and noncompliance with state procurement laws.

McGuiness allegedly hired her daughter and one of her daughter’s friends — high school seniors at the time — as temporary employees in May 2020, when other temps were being let go because the pandemic meant there wasn’t much work for them. The daughter was then allegedly paid even after she left and went to college, and was still listed as an employee as recently as Aug. 28, 2021.

“As millions of Americans, including her own employees, lost their jobs, the auditor, whose job is to protect your tax dollars from abuse, used her power to hire her daughter, no questions asked,” Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings said Monday. “She paid her daughter thousands of tax dollars, even when the daughter wasn’t showing up to work.”

Should the allegations be proved true in court, McGuiness must be punished to the fullest extent of the law, given the degree to which it appears she misused her position at the expense of Delaware taxpayers.

Certainly West Virginians have good reason to believe state Auditor J.B. McCuskey has been vigilant in weeding out opportunities for missteps such as those McGuiness appears to have pursued. He has been a champion of transparency, and gone so far as to try to help state and local governments prevent fraud, waste and abuse, too.

It is easy to take that kind of work for granted. But as Delaware residents seem to be learning the hard way, perhaps we should not.


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