The Delaware News Journal came out with an article today about the ongoing battle between Kathleen Davies and the Office of the Auditor of Accounts. Even though the hearing with the Department of Labor ruled State Auditor Tom Wagner terminated Davies without cause, that only determined unemployment funding for Davies. Now the battle is heating up with the Delaware Merit Employee Review Board (MERB). But the News Journal article is missing or failed to report some vital facts.
The bottom line is Kathleen Davies was terminated for doing her job and the trumped-up charges against her were bogus in scope and detail.
News Journal reporter Jessica Bies reported Davies kept the hearing private. Last month, one of Davies Democrat opponents, Kathy McGuiness, shamefully challenged Davies to make the MERB hearing public. What McGuiness failed to consider is the fact Davies has an attorney and she would go by the best practical advice of her counsel instead of pandering to a political candidate’s challenge.
Kathleen Davies, one of three Democratic candidates for state auditor, has chosen not to open to the public a Merit Employee Relations Board hearing on her December 2017 firing from the office she is campaigning to lead.
How many state employees that have been wrongly terminated, which is the entire point of the Merit Employee Relations Board, open their hearing to the public? Did the News Journal bother to get any statistics on that? No. I did. Many of these hearings are not made public and those that are seem to be when the petitioner does not have legal counsel. Davies does.
Even more puzzling is the role of the News Journal in this case. When they produced what I viewed to be an unethical and non-fact based smear of Davies two years ago, even though the allegations in that article were proven false in Davies unemployment hearing, they publicly wrote about McGuiness’ challenge to Davies and came out with a misleading article today about Davies making the hearing private. Even the title alone suggests something which it isn’t:
Delaware Auditor candidate Kathleen Davies keeps hearing on her firing private
First off, the unemployment hearing already showed she was terminated without just cause. No ruling has come out from MERB because the hearing has been postponed until August 23rd, according to John Fluharty at the Auditor’s office.
Davies was fired for violating generally accepted government auditing standards, among other things, and several members of Wagner’s staff have been called on to testify in the matter.
On whose behalf? This is important. As well, yes, Davies was terminated but by not writing “wrongfully” before fired is misleading to the casual reader.
They also testified in a Department of Labor hearing over her unemployment benefits. In that case, was decided Wagner did not have sufficient cause for firing Davies because the evidence he cited in her discharge letter consisted largely of hearsay and personal opinion.
Once again, how many of these were based on subpoenas issued by Davies to force them to testify? Tom Wagner had to testify at the unemployment hearing because Davies issued a subpoena to him to testify on her side.
While Davies is a very public name these days due to her part in the State Auditor’s race, the thoughts from the other two Democrat candidates in the article today are disturbing. First up is former State Rep. Dennis Williams:
He said Davies should be more open about the matter.
“I think there needs to be more transparency here,” he said. “There’s a candidate for state auditor, which essentially is the chief transparency officer for the state, not being transparent.”
Let’s talk about transparency and fraud Dennis Williams! Was it not YOU who said DSEA endorsed you in your 2016 primary against incumbent State Rep. Sean Matthews? Which was completely false! What kind of candidate claims an endorsement they never received? But the next part is very troubling and I question why Bies even put it in the article:
Williams said he has now consulted several auditors about reports that Davies sent a draft report of a unit count audit to state Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newport, while she was working in the auditor’s office. The annual audit examines whether or not schools are reporting accurate enrollment numbers, which affects how much state funding they receive.
And yet, there is NOTHING about what those other auditors said. What kind of auditors did he “consult” with? Were they State Auditors? Independent Auditors? It has already been determined Wagner did not have sufficient cause for terminating Davies over giving State Rep. Kim Williams a copy of the audit draft. The unemployment hearing covered that already. Furthermore, Rep. Kim Williams was the one who requested the audit in the first place because of her own findings.
The auditor’s office also denied a Freedom of Information Act Request for the document, citing Delaware Merit Board rules and pending litigation. Davies would not confirm whether or not she’s seen the document in its entirety or has a copy in her possession.
Kathy McGuiness, another of Davies’ primary opponents, has called upon her to authorize the release of the Grant Thornton investigation and any other pertinent information.
Davies is in the middle of litigation against Wagner’s office. It is ongoing. Furthermore, it is a work product paid for by the state. Once again, it is in the midst of litigation. Which brings us to Kathy McGuiness and her attack against Davies:
To have critical investigative information about a candidate for state Auditor withheld from the public and to have a hearing, where serious accusations about her professional conduct while on the job will be reviewed, closed is a disservice to voters and undermines the public’s confidence, McGuiness, a Rehoboth Beach commissioner, said in a statement last month.
I find it odd McGuiness didn’t even mention the unemployment hearing at all when she issued her “challenge”. She knew all about that! But she wants to cast a negative light on Davies. Typical political victim shaming during an election! But the News Journal article did a very job of pointing out McGuiness’ collection of endorsements of which none talk about any history of actual auditing experience:
McGuinness has a long list of endorsements, from officials including Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro, Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and House Majority Leader Valarie Longhurst.
This article seems to be more concerned with casting Davies in a negative light while at the same time providing different links to Kathy McGuiness’ campaign website. Bies even provides a link to Dennis Williams’ website. But for Kathleen Davies, she does not receive that. Why is that? Why not be fair and partial and provide links to all three of the candidates websites if you are going to do that for some and not all? Why didn’t Bies contact the Repubican candidate for State Auditor, James Spadola, or reference his website?
My biggest flaw with any of the articles Bies has written on the subject of Davies is her failure to publish a public document from the MERB website concerning documents Davies requested from the Auditor of Accounts Office:
As shown by the above document, Davies requested 88 documents and pieces of evidence from Wagner’s office on June 5th. MERB ordered Wagner’s office to produce those documents. The very next day, Wagner’s office put in what is called a “Motion to Quash”, which means they don’t have to produce certain documents. MERB heard this review on June 21st and denied or granted some of Davies’ requests. But the large volume of documents requested from Davies says a lot about what has been going on in the Auditor’s office. While it doesn’t paint a clear picture it does show what Davies was looking for to defend her case.
I still question why Jessica Bies was assigned to this story. While there are ties to education, it is more political in nature. Folks from the News Journal have publicly responded on social media that she was assigned this towards the end of the legislative session in the General Assembly when other reporters were very busy. But she usually handles education matters. It is my contention the News Journal wanted to keep anyone associated with the 2016 article away from the current story because they had so many of the facts wrong in that article. I find many of Bies’ articles concerning education to be very informative but the articles on Davies’ are missing pertinent information and framed in such a way to be damning against Davies. I have no doubt the News Journal is frustrated with the lack of information coming from Wagner’s office. We all are. But this article points the finger at Davies instead of where the finger needs to point: Tom Wagner.
The sheer number of audits that came out prior to Davies’ wrongful termination that were pulled and reworked is alarming. The Millville Fire Department. The Unit Count for special education funding. The petty cash letters that went to charter schools instead of becoming an actual audit inspection. The audit on the Sustainable Energy Units from early 2016 was very controversial because it clearly showed how much money Delaware wasted on that project. Even the Indian River School District audit investigation, released seven months after Davies was put on administrative leave, seemed to be lacking. The connections between the Indian River School District and the Indian River Volunteer Fire Department demanded an audit investigation take place with the fire department. That never happened. I believe it is fair to say Davies had many enemies in the state because she was doing her job. One of those enemies included her boss, Tom Wagner. Others included those who are very powerful and tend to be out of reach when it comes to being held accountable. Which is exactly why we need Kathleen Davies to become the next State Auditor for Delaware.
For those who are just now following this long saga, here is a guide to what I have published over the years along with other media, blogs, or actual audit inspections from the Auditor of Accounts website. There is a very heavy amount of activity with various audits conducted in Fiscal Year 2016.