Lawmakers demand leak investigation into Kathleen Davies report

In response to the misguided and irresponsible statements of News Journal Executive Editor Mike Feeley unfairly criticizing the letter sent to AG Matt Denn seeking an internal investigation of a releasing of a confidential report, I am including my comments and challenges to Mr. Feeley’s statements in the article copied below.

Rep. John Kowalko

Mr. Feeley,

In an obvious misrepresentation of the truth, you made statements in today’s article (“Mike Feeley, executive editor of The News Journal, said the news organization will not be deterred by threats of legal action”) that show that you have apparently not read the letter from Rep. Williams and myself sent to Attorney General Denn, or you are deliberately misinterpreting the content and intent of the letter. Nowhere in that letter does it state or allude to ANY legal action or threat thereof against the News Journal. It is an unfair and false claim of some type of purported persecution of the media that has no place in fair and objective reporting.

Furthermore your blatant attempts to integrate illegal and illicit releasing of privileged and confidential materials regarding an active hearing that has not been adjudicated into your opinion of transparent government is woefully and blatantly misguided. Calling for an investigation of a source or sources within a government agency that have conspired to release a confidential report involving a serious personnel matter yet to be adjudicated is a potential criminal action that must be investigated and punished (within the structure of the law). It is certainly not your place to judge the efficacy of such an action as whistleblower protected nor to conspire, via your expressed opinion, with illegal and illicit actions by redefining transparency.

Representative John Kowalko

The News Journal | by Christina Jedra

After a critical personnel report on state auditor candidate Kathleen Davies was obtained by The News Journal this month, two Delaware lawmakers who endorsed her are demanding the attorney general launch a leak investigation.

State Representatives John Kowalko and Kim Williams wrote in an Aug. 17 letter to Attorney General Matt Denn that the release of the report “raises serious concerns we have with confidentiality protections and guarantees.”

“The fact that a confidential report almost wholly accusatory to an individual (Ms. Davies) who has not been allowed NOR permitted to see the final report certainly displays a failure to grant due process to that individual,” the legislators wrote.

The lawmakers claimed the report was “illicitly/illegally obtained” and that the newspaper left “little to no opportunity for any counterpoint or rebuttal.” Their letter asks that Denn expose the newspaper’s source and issue “any charges so merited.”

Mike Feeley, executive editor of The News Journal, said the news organization will not be deterred by threats of legal action.

“To be clear, The News Journal obtained the report legally, reported on it accurately and gave Kathleen Davies and her attorneys time and space to respond to its allegations,’’ Feeley said.

Feeley said the report was paid for by Delaware taxpayers and involved the operations of a high-level state office.

“We find it concerning that state lawmakers who say they value transparent government are calling for an investigation into how this important document came into public view,” Feeley said.

The report, titled “Investigation into Actions of the Chief Administrative Auditor,” was commissioned by State Auditor Tom Wagner after auditing employees filed complaints with the state claiming Davies, Wagner’s former second-in-command, violated office protocols and auditing standards.

Davies, in a written response, told The News Journal that Wagner’s attorney, Kevin Slattery, has consistently failed to provide evidence — including a copy of the full Grant Thornton report — to support the allegations made against her, despite subpoenas and subsequent motions. She said Wagner has also testified, at a hearing regarding her unemployment benefits, that “he took no steps to address the allegations.”

Wagner put Davies on paid leave in July 2016 and fired her in December 2017.

One of the allegations outlined in the report involved a draft report of an audit that Davies sent to Rep. Williams in 2016. The annual audit reviews the accuracy of school enrollment numbers, which affect their level of state funding.

The Department of Labor’s unemployment benefits division determined Davies was allowed to send Williams the audit, but the Grant Thornton report disagreed. Williams might have received other information from Davies, the report said.

Davies denied wrongdoing in her communications with Williams and said her actions were “within my responsibilities, duties, consistent with past practices throughout my tenure, and in accordance with professional audit and investigations standards.”

A Merit Employee Relations Board hearing began July 19 and is ongoing. Members could take one to three months to issue a determination on whether Davies was fired justifiably.

Davies will appear on the primary election ballot on Sept. 6 along with candidates Kathy McGuiness and Dennis E. Williams. The winning Democrat will face Republican challenger James Spadola in the November general election.

In a separate hearing process regarding unemployment benefits, the Department of Labor ruled that Wagner did not have sufficient cause to fire Davies because the evidence he cited in her discharge letter largely consisted of hearsay and opinion. Part, but not all, of the Grant Thornton report was used in that hearing. Labor officials said Wagner did not provide the full report.

Contacted Monday morning, Davies said she hadn’t yet seen the letter from Kowalko and Williams. She said she would comment once she reviewed it.

Davies Report AG Letter

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