The daughter of Delaware Auditor Kathy McGuiness on Wednesday testified that she worked every hour she billed state taxpayers while employed in her mother’s office in recent years.
Elizabeth McGuiness, who goes by Saylar, is a foundational witness in state prosecutors’ case against McGuiness, who is fighting two public corruption felonies and three misdemeanor charges for actions she took after her election to the office in 2019.
The employment of Elizabeth McGuiness is relevant to the conflict-of-interest misdemeanor, as well as the felony theft charge faced by McGuiness.
Elizabeth McGuiness, 20, told the jury that she began the part-time job in the auditor’s office in the spring of 2020 as she was graduating high school and preparing to begin her college education in South Carolina. She told the jury she continued to work in a limited fashion while off at school and continues to work in the office today.
Prompted by questions from Deputy Attorney General Maria Knoll, Elizabeth McGuiness told the jury she didn’t remember how she found out about the job, that she believes she was interviewed by the office’s then-chief of staff but doesn’t remember the content of the interview.
She was paid $17.50 an hour for a maximum of 29.5 hours per week, a cap she said she reached on average.
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She started the job around the same time as her childhood friend, Virginia Bateman, who testified last week. In their initial indictment against the auditor in October, prosecutors said Elizabeth McGuiness had been paid around $19,000.
Upon cross-examination by Steve Wood, her mother’s defense attorney, Elizabeth McGuiness said she worked every hour she billed and never stole money from the state.
She told the jury that her duties included “pretty much anything and everything handed to me.”
She discussed editing documents, manuals, reports and newsletters, as well as creating graphics for office social media posts and newsletters. Part of her duties was also what has been referred to in court as “staffing Kathy,” which included traveling to events with her mother where she would help hand out literature and take pictures.
On his cross-examination, Wood showed a litany of emails involving Elizabeth McGuiness to or from her mother or other officials in the office appearing to show her working on certain projects. The emails stretched from June 2020 through the end of the year.
Upon questioning from Wood, she said there are similar emails for the following year of her employment.
She testified about twice working at the Delaware State Fair in Harrington where her hours worked went over the 29.5 hours allowed each week. She told the jury she was instructed by either her mother or another high-level office official to “bank” the hours, meaning she logged the extra hours in subsequent weeks or months.
Prompted by Knoll’s questioning, she told the jury she used her personal Gmail address for work. Prosecutors also played audio of her first interview with a prosecutor in the Delaware Department of Justice. In that call, she told the investigator she only used her state email for work.
Upon questioning by Wood, she told the jury the conversation with the investigator occurred the day after Firefly Festival, that she wasn’t on her “A-game,” that she was wrong but didn’t mean to mislead.
Prosecutors questioned her about her use of a state car, prompting her to tell Knoll that “pretty much the entire time” she used the car, her mother and Bateman were present. Upon cross-examination by Wood, she told the jury that there was no occasion she used the car by herself.
Her testimony lined up with the prior statements to the jury by Bateman. Prompted by Wood, both discussed how other employees in the office treated them.
Elizabeth McGuiness said that auditors in the office had a “distaste” for her and Bateman before they knew them. Bateman told the jury that employees were rude to them.
Elizabeth McGuiness has not been accused of any crime and prosecutors showed the jury what was referred to as a “limited immunity agreement” she signed.
To convict Kathy McGuiness of the conflict-of-interest charge tied to hiring her daughter, prosecutors must show that the auditor used her power to hire her daughter and that her daughter benefited in ways that similarly situated employees did not.
So far, prosecutors have called two former part-time workers to the witness stand to discuss their job duties. Both stated they had some similar job tasks, were paid slightly less per hour than Bateman and McGuiness, and were not allowed to “bank” hours. Both said they left the office because of personal reasons.
Prosecutors are likely to call more part-time employees to the stand in the coming days.
McGuiness is also charged with theft as prosecutors claim she exercised control over state money by hiring her daughter to a job that paid into a bank account jointly controlled by McGuiness and her daughter.
In Wednesday’s testimony, Elizabeth McGuiness told the jury she did not give any of her earnings to her mother and that she opened the bank account before she was a teenager.