DOVER, Delaware (AP) — The state’s chief investigator faced devastating cross-examination Tuesday as prosecutors closed their case in the criminal corruption trial of Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness .
Franklin Robinson was bombarded with questions from defense attorney Steve Wood about false and misleading statements he made under oath in a search warrant sworn affidavit and again in testimony before a grand jury.
Robinson even denied writing the search warrant affidavit, saying it was done by “a team”, although he made no such claim at an earlier evidence suppression hearing.
McGuiness, a Democrat elected in 2018, is tasked as state auditor with rooting out government fraud, waste and abuse. She is on trial on counts of theft and intimidation of witnesses, and misdemeanor charges of official misconduct, conflict of interest and failure to comply with public procurement laws. McGuiness is the first statewide elected official from Delaware to face criminal charges while in office.
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Robinson was peppered with questions on Tuesday about allegations that McGuiness orchestrated a no-tender communications services contract for My Campaign Group, a company she used as a campaign consultant when she ran for lieutenant -governor in 2016, then deliberately kept contract payments under $5,000 to avoid having to have them approved by the Accounting Division.
Robinson told a judge in a 2021 search warrant affidavit that payments to My Campaign Group were split in August 2020, and then again in September 2020, to keep them below $5,000, the threshold at which payments by state agencies require approval from the Division of Accounting. In fact, Robinson and attorneys for the Attorney General’s office had seen a spreadsheet from the Accounting Division about two months earlier showing that My Campaign Group owner Christie Gross was only getting one payment a month. , both over $5,000 and both approved by the Accounting Division.
Robinson also incorrectly stated in the affidavit that the contract with My Campaign Group was the only untendered contract of at least $45,000 entered into by McGuiness’ office in which all payments were less than $5,000. .
In the affidavit, Robinson described My Campaign Group as “political campaign consulting,” failing to tell the judge that the firm also provided non-campaign political services to government officials in several states. Wood said Robinson implied in the affidavit that McGuiness improperly hired Gross strictly for political campaign purposes, even though Gross had told Robinson months earlier that she was helping McGuiness with projects involving drug costs. prescription for taxpayers and coronavirus relief programs.
Despite the misrepresentations and omissions, Robinson swore in the affidavit requesting a search warrant that he did not exclude any fact or circumstance that would tend to thwart the establishment of probable cause that McGuiness had committed a crime.
“Your sworn statement is that all those things you omitted… wouldn’t have affected the judge’s decision?” Wood asked.
“I don’t think so,” replied Robinson, who has nearly 30 years of experience as a police officer and investigator.
Wood also claimed Robinson and prosecutors deliberately lied by implying that a part-time Auditor’s office employee was fired in 2020 so McGuiness’ daughter could be brought on board, and that two others stopped working. working around the same time due to a ‘lack of available work’ amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Emails and other documents indicate that the employee who was allegedly fired had already planned to leave and was denied unemployment insurance benefits because she voluntarily quit.
Another employee said in a resignation letter that she was moving to New Jersey with her husband to care for her mother, while the third was asked to quit after telling McGuiness in a text that she would not. could not work for several months because she had lost her babysitter and had no child care.
Robinson acknowledged that he did not try to obtain the emails and texts showing the circumstances in which the employees left.
“That’s right,” he replied when Wood said he “didn’t bother to look.”
Prosecutors also allege McGuiness hired her daughter and her daughter’s best friend as temporary workers in 2020, even though others were forced out due to lack of available work. Authorities allege that by hiring her daughter and exercising control over the taxpayer money she was paid with, McGuiness engaged in theft of state money and a conflict of interest. Prosecutors say Elizabeth “Saylar” McGuiness’ paycheck went to a joint bank account she shared with her mother.
“You have no proof that Saylar gave his mother any money. It’s a fact, right? Wood asked.
“Correct,” Robinson replied.
Robinson also acknowledged that he never told the grand jury that several part-time employees of the auditor’s office had access to Kathy McGuiness’ state vehicle. Authorities said access to the vehicle was a special privilege granted to his daughter, but not to other part-time employees.
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