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State c. McGuiness, day 5 | Entrepreneur at the Heart of Structuring Load Details, Work Performed, “Toxic” Culture | Latest news from WDEL

Wednesday morning’s testimony in the trial against state auditor Kathy McGuiness came exclusively from a key figure at the center of the prosecution’s structuring charge.

Speaking on Thursday, June 22, 2022, Christie Gross, the contractor to whom payments for her work with the Office of the Auditor were left to Attorney General Kathy Jennings, alleging McGuiness intentionally provided contracts under 50 $000 so they don’t. t be competitive and make payments under $5,000 so expenses don’t need approval or scrutiny.

The most telling part of her testimony came when she detailed Deputy Attorney General Patricia Davis who emailed her and then-chief of staff of Auditor Thomas Van Horn’s office that the follow-up to the Federal COVID funding was not the responsibility of the Auditor’s Office, something Gross said she’s seen addressed in other states and something she disagreed with in Delaware. She claimed on the stand that the governor and attorney general appeared to push back against attempts by the auditor’s office to track public funds and hold public officials accountable. Attorney Mark Denney pointed Davis, responding to inquiries about how the auditor should handle COVID funding tracking, if any, did so in his capacity as civilian deputy attorney general as legal counsel to the AG, and cited the Delaware code in its response. .

She would eventually reveal that Van Horn, who allegedly had a sexual affair with a junior staff member, was a big part of why she thought the office was dysfunctional and abrasive, and that he appeared to be a “young man in the above his head”. An audited supplier contacted Gross directly to try to discuss their finances, which she said was highly inappropriate, and she said she told McGuiness that Van Horn was a confidentiality issue.

Gross detailed the work she did for McGuiness at the two companies she started, My Campaign Group and Innovate Consulting. Under the first, Gross billed the auditor’s office $150 an hour, and in September 2020 received two payments in the same month – the second paid with a “p-card”, an official credit card from the company. ‘state – what the prosecution points to as an example of McGuiness trying to hide payments. But the defense argued that this technically did not count as “multiple payments” and showed that the documents submitted to the Accounting Division had been incorrectly approved, and Gross’ bank statements showing that she had not received as one-off state payments, except for the month of September. overdue payment, which was delivered via PayPal. The defense argues this shows McGuiness was not trying to hide anything.

For ongoing coverage of every development in the state against auditor Kathy McGuiness, find WDEL’s collection of stories here.

Prosecutor Mark Denney went through the same payment structures previously detailed in the lawsuit through spreadsheets, but digging a little deeper into the details of the services Gross was contributing to the auditor’s office, including trying to help connect with other like-minded officials, like the state auditor of Missouri, to work together on national initiatives, such as the Medicaid price gouging and prescription drug pricing programs. She also explained during her time on the helm that some payments were halted specifically because they didn’t know how much federal COVID money would be provided to cover their efforts on the Delaware Data Dashboard, under the direction of McGuiness, but the practice was discontinued. when they saw that a sustainable amount of funding was available.

In a gesture motivated by self-awareness, Gross said she knew her business, My Campaign Group, a name originally chosen because it shared her initials – CG – could get some officials in trouble if interpreted that they were using campaign aid. group and paying for it with public funds. People may not know that my campaign group has done political work like the Medicaid and prescription drug efforts. So, at the request of a former employer with whom Gross said she remained in good standing, she underwent a rebrand.

As Innovate Consulting, Gross continued to work for the auditor’s office at $200 an hour until February 2021, when Gross decided to leave the government organization. She detailed not needing the aggravation caused by the employees there, describing a thriving business, with multiple clients, and for what she called a minor amount of money compared to the difficulties she was having. , it was easier to concentrate his talents elsewhere . Defense attorney Steven Wood asked Gross to guide the jury through the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” preparing for a joint finance committee hearing in February 2021.

The JFC is made up of a number of General Assembly members, and each state government agency must prepare a report and ask how much they want to increase their budget by and explain where those needs arise. Gross said she noticed that the numbers in the presentation were incorrect and that staff members were clearly unfamiliar with the process and not anticipating their needs appropriately.

She spent many hours reviewing and correcting the budget figures, Gross said, but someone continually changed everything back to the original, incorrect information. When explaining what was happening to McGuiness, Gross said McGuiness informed her to “‘tell them to listen to you'”. left out of the conversation until she sees the finalized report due the next day. It contained misinformation, she said. She decided when her time in the office was over, Gross said.

Gross called the culture at the office “toxic,” something Wood tried to paint as employees were accustomed to former auditor Tom Wagner’s approach to their responsibilities to new hires and to the approaches introduced and undertaken under the McGuiness administration, but something Gross also describes as sexism, painting McGuiness as a strong woman against patriarchy.

During her testimony, she also told Wood that she and McGuiness were never friendly and that she would never jeopardize his business for a few thousand dollars, although she acknowledged that it was. is exactly what happened as his companies are currently linked to the case against McGuiness.

McGuiness is the first statewide official to be tried while in office. She was charged with official misconduct, conflict of interest, framing and felony theft over $1,500 and intimidation.