Calls grow louder to remove Delaware auditor after conviction

File photo: Delaware Auditor Kathy McGuiness leaves court in April with her attorney, Steve Wood.

File photo: Delaware Auditor Kathy McGuiness leaves court in April with her attorney, Steve Wood. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Two weeks after Kathleen McGuiness became the first statewide elected official in Delaware history convicted of a crime, state lawmakers have renewed calls for her to be forced from office.

In a letter to Gov. John Carney, leaders of the House say he is required to remove her from office following her conviction.

“The crimes the State Auditor has been found guilty of meet the Constitutional criteria of ‘misbehavior in office,’” House leaders including Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf and Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst wrote.  “As a result, you are obligated to remove her from office upon entry of a judgment of conviction by the Superior Court,” the letter reads.

The letter is signed by 24 of McGuiness’ fellow Democrats.

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“The Delaware Constitution lays out the clearest, quickest and most direct path to removing a public official: the governor is required to remove a public official who has been convicted of ‘misbehavior in office,’” Longhurst said. “With the stroke of a pen, the governor can fulfill his constitutional obligation and remove the state auditor from office.”

Despite the jury’s guilty verdict on July 1, Carney said in a statement that he “has no power to act until after the entry of a judgment of conviction by the Superior Court.” That official pronouncement won’t happen until she’s sentenced, however, and Superior Court Judge William C. Carpenter, Jr. has not set a date to decide McGuiness’ legal fate. She faces up to three years behind bars.

Direct action by the governor is just one of three ways the statewide elected official could be ousted. Both chambers of the General Assembly could also vote to call for the governor to eject her from office if two-thirds of both chambers agree. The third, and most lengthy, method requires the House to hold an impeachment hearing followed by a Senate trial. If that trial ended against McGuiness, lawmakers could force her out without input from the governor.

For its part, the Senate has started moving forward with legislative action to remove McGuiness. On Thursday, Senate President Pro-Tem David Sokola filed a concurrent resolution providing notice of his plans to hold a hearing on forcing the auditor out.

“The General Assembly finds it is appropriate at this time to begin proceedings under Section 13,” Sokola writes in the resolution.

The major hold up in any legislative action moving forward is the fact that lawmakers adjourned their legislative work for the year on June 30. They’re not scheduled to return to Dover until January.

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In the meantime, McGuiness continues her campaign for re-election.

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