State Auditor Kathleen McGuiness is being sued by a former employee and political opponent who alleges she was wrongfully terminated.
The lawsuit was filed on the same day McGuiness was set to face trial on a slew of corruption charges in Wilmington. Her trial was ultimately relocated to Kent County where it will begin Tuesday.
Kathleen Davies, a career auditor who lost a primary battle to McGuiness in 2018, claims in a Superior Court filing that she was “isolated, bullied, intimidated, disciplined, and ultimately retaliated against” after she reported misconduct in the office.
Davies was also fired from the Office of the Auditor by McGuiness’ predecessor, Tom Wagner. According to The News Journal, her employment was reinstated in 2019 after a state board ruled she was improperly terminated.
The lawsuit, which names the Office of the Auditor as the defendant, details allegations of misconduct and retaliation by McGuiness and her then-chief of staff, Sen. Spiros Mantzavinos, D-Elsmere, as well as a deputy state auditor.
Davies is being represented by Anthony Delcollo, a former Republican state senator who lost reelection in 2020 to — you guessed it — Sen. Spiros Mantzavinos.
Attempts to reach Delcollo for comment were unsuccessful.
The lawsuit alleges that shortly after McGuiness’ election, Davies “noticed irregularities in the execution and administration” of the office’s functions.
Davies claims she witnessed deviations from well-established policies, including the structuring of contracts with the “express intent of fragmenting the contracted services to avoid the public procurement process for public contracts.”
She also alleges McGuiness rented out hotel facilities five blocks away from her office to hold multi-day training events, even though there was an “adequately sized training room that had been used regularly.”
During that training event, McGuiness purchased food and drinks “well in excess of what was required for the session,” the lawsuit says.
According to the suit, McGuiness attempted to force Davies to sign off on incomplete and non-compliant work, prompting Davies to ask Mantzavinos for the Whistleblower and Workplace Violence contact.
After Mantzavinos failed to take any action to address Davies’ allegations of misconduct, the filing says “the abusive conduct perpetrated by the Auditor of Accounts intensified.”
Davies took short-term disability leave in Sept. 2019 because of “stress and anxiety” caused by her treatment in the office, the suit says, including:
- Denying Davies access to a computer or state email address.
- Placing Davies in a small office without windows, isolated from other staff.
- Removing all Davies’ job functions and assigning menial tasks.
- Ignoring Davies’ request for additional work assignments.
- Demanding that Davies sign an auditing policy without being able to confirm that the policies were compliant.
- Admonishing and berating Davies for utilizing the only printer available in the office.
- Entering Davies’ office on multiple occasions per week for the sole purpose of screaming, yelling, and hurling verbal abuse at her.
- Screaming at Davies within inches of her face such that McGuiness’ breath struck Davies’ face, in such a manner that caused Davies to fear physical injury or assault.
- Barring Davies from having interactions with other employees throughout the day.
- Issuing Davies a termination letter and proceeding to terminate Davies from her job effective April 10, 2020.
The suit says Davies’ employment was terminated for “violating a nonexistent policy” after she sent evidence of illegal activity and retaliation to her personal email address, despite McGuiness and others in the office using their personal email addresses in the course of their work.
It also alleges McGuiness and Mantzavinos would “regularly engage staff in playing games of cornhole toss directly in the center of work areas at various hours throughout the workday,” outside of regularly scheduled breaks and lunch periods.
McGuiness’ attorneys could not be immediately reached for comment.
In the suit, Davies asks the court to enter an order establishing that McGuiness violated the Delaware Whistleblower Protection Act and destroyed Davies’ professional credibility, preventing her from securing future employment.
Davies also hopes the court will reinstate her prior position and pay back wages.
McGuiness is currently under indictment in Kent County on the following charges:
- Conflict of interest: Violation of the State Officials’ Code of Conduct (misdemeanor)
- Theft (felony)
- Structuring: Non-compliance with procurement law (misdemeanor)
- Official misconduct (misdemeanor)
- Intimidation (felony)
Her trial begins Tuesday.
Click here to view the lawsuit filed in the Superior Court.
Charlie Megginson covers government and politics for Town Square LIVE News. Reach him at (302) 344-8293 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @cmegginson4.
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