Delaware Auditor of Accounts Office Violated FOIA According To Legal Opinion

On September 7th, I filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint against the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office.  Even though I did receive the documentation for my original FOIA request regarding a contract that office entered into with Grant Thornton, it came very late.  In fact, it came the day after a highly contested primary for the State Auditor position.  But my FOIA complaint dealt with what I felt were illegal and unethical issues coming out of AOA.

The person in charge of handling FOIA requests at the Auditor of Accounts office was John Fluharty.  As of last week, he is no longer there.  In addition, Andrena Burd no longer works at that office.  They appeared to be the two main culprits in the ouster of Kathleen Davies back in 2016.  As well, although never confirmed “officially”, there is no doubt in my mind they were behind the leaking of confidential information from that office to Jessica Bies with The News Journal.

In my FOIA complaint, I did lead off with the fact that the bizarre circumstances surrounding the lateness of AOA’s FOIA response, the day after the Primary, was intentional.  And while I didn’t expect the Attorney General’s office to force AOA to answer my questions about their role in what amounted to election tampering, I felt it was important to get that information out there even though they didn’t rule on those questions.

Will we ever find out exactly who leaked the Grant Thornton report from the News Journal or how much editing power AOA had over the report?  Probably not.  But motivation is a key factor.  Aside from the election going on, Fluharty, Burd and Tammy Smith were all very frightened of Kathleen Davies coming back to AOA.  They were afraid she would exact revenge against them.  I would say it was a valid fear since they were behind the conspiracy to get her removed.  It was a multi-pronged effort with multiple factors in the mix.  But what they did was shady beyond belief and defies any logical explanation given Davies’ character and commitment to that office.  It was mean, vindictive, and petty.

You had the Delaware Department of Education being mega-ticked at Davies for the unit-count report.  Various charters did not like the attention they were getting from that office in the wake of the Family Foundations, Academy of Dover, and Providence Creek Academy audit investigations.  There was Ann Visalli with the Office of Management and Budget who left soon after Davies ouster to become the Chief Operating Officer at St. Andrews private school.  There were the fire company audits and the Sustainable Energy report.  Davies wasn’t making friends but she was doing her job as the second-in-command at AOA.  Tom Wagner was never there so someone had to do the job.

The combustible ingredient, in my best guess, happened after Davies was placed on leave.  It was already a fire, but that fire became an inferno when Davies filed as a Democrat for State Auditor earlier this year.  Did the Kathy McGuiness campaign play a role in the News Journal finding out information?  I would guess yes but to what extent I couldn’t say.  We know long-time McGuiness pal Mitch Crane had a friendly relationship with John Fluharty.  I submitted a FOIA request to AOA earlier in the summer for any emails between Fluharty and Crane.  The two, at least on one occasion, had lunch.  While that certainly isn’t a basis for collusion of that magnitude, the timing is uncanny.

I would bet my bottom dollar the James Spadola campaign played no role in the AOA leak to Bies.  Spadola didn’t even file until the filing deadline and that was after Joan Winters dropped out of the race on the Republican side.  By that time, whatever was in motion with the News Journal had already become a runaway train.  Plus, I know Spadola’s campaign manager very well and she just doesn’t have that in her.

What becomes very odd is the fact Davies did lose the Primary, but within two weeks of the Primary both Fluharty and Burd left the office.  Whether that was voluntary or involuntary is a big question, I received no response from AOA in my attempt to find out that information.  Given Fluharty’s disgusting boasting in The News Journal an hour after the Primary results came in, I would think the last thing he would do is just quit.  Burd as well.

What we are left with are certainties: McGuiness will face off against Spadola on November 6th.  Current State Auditor Tom Wagner will be gone as of December 31st.  Davies hearing with the Merit Employee Review Board (MERB) will get a part two.  Fluharty and Burd are gone and there are only 15 employees (as of last week) left at AOA.  The Delaware Attorney General’s office has shown no signs of honoring State Reps. John Kowalko and Kim Williams request to have them investigate the leaks from AOA to Bies.  They also refused to do anything about Smith’s Facebook post, days before the election, begging voters not to vote for Davies in Primary Day.  She is still at AOA and serves as a state employee.

I sent an email to McGuiness the weekend after the Primary.  It was my (failed) attempt to figure out if her campaign did contribute to The News Journal’s smear campaign against Davies.  I framed the email in such a way that I hoped she would take the bait.  She did not.  I’m kind of glad she didn’t because I felt uncomfortable going to that length.

Who will I vote for on November 6th?  Certainly not McGuiness.  Which leaves Spadola.  I would have much preferred Davies but the past can’t be changed.  Spadola’s assertion that the office should remain Republican is foolhardy in nature considering the office has been Republican and only became what it should have always been when Davies was there.  I believe Spadola can (and should) mix things up there but the true question is who would Spadola put in that is of Davies’ caliber?  It would need to be someone awesome, perhaps even Davies herself.

There is the matter of McGuiness’ true intentions to think about.  In an interview with WDEL about her bid for State Auditor being a stepping stone to higher office, McGuiness went into a response of “I don’t know what I’ll be doing tomorrow.”  Which means she wasn’t going to answer the question.  But rumors about her future are circulating among Delaware political circles.  At some point, if those rumors turn out to be true, she could run for Lieutenant Governor again with Val Longhurst on the Democrat ticket for Governor.  Whether this is in 2020 or 2024 remains to be seen.  If it is 2020, does that mean Carney is planning on being a one-term Governor?  Or would the Longhurst-McGuiness team attempt to primary the Carney-Hall-Long team?  If it is 2020, that would mean McGuiness would only be in the Auditor’s office for two years out of a four-year term.  For someone who wanted that office so bad only to leave halfway is atrocious on the best day.

To read the legal opinion based on my FOIA complaint from Chief Deputy Aaron Goldstein, please see below.  But then read below that for an important announcement.

So why am I blogging again?  I don’t know.  I needed a break.  See the light again, so to speak.  And I did.  I played around with what to do with this blog.  A new name, a new format.  I was toying with something bigger.  I even toyed with making money out of it.  But at the end of the day, the name and format don’t mean as much as the content.  I heard the many voices who wanted me to stay on and keep fighting.  To keep writing.  Those words touched me.  There are still truths to tell.  Including a very big one coming up very, very soon.  As most in Delaware can attest, there are things the regular media, especially The News Journal, won’t touch.

The future of this blog is whatever I make of it.  Some jokingly told me I wasn’t ending this blog and they have heard that before.  They were right in the long run.  My mission isn’t over yet.  I won’t make any fancy predictions.  I’m not committing to going full throttle or slowing down.  It just is.

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