Indicted Washington state auditor returns to work

OLYMPIA — Indicted state Auditor Troy Kelley returned to work Tuesday morning, ending seven months of self-imposed exile while facing a trove of federal criminal charges.

Kelley hadn’t intended to come back until his legal fight was done but changed his mind when four state lawmakers said Monday they would try to impeach him for dereliction of duty.

“I said I would not be back until the conclusion of my legal issues. Now I am being impeached solely because I’m taking a leave of absence. That’s why I am back,” Kelley said in an interview.

Kelley, a 51-year-old Democrat, went on unpaid leave May 4 to defend himself against charges of money laundering, possession of stolen money, lying under oath and tax evasion arising from his operation of a real-estate services business from 2006 to 2008. He’s denied wrongdoing and is now scheduled to face trial in March.

Kelley, who was elected in 2012, intends to serve the final year of his term. Though he’s filed paperwork to be a candidate in 2016 he said, “Today I can’t imagine running for re-election. I won’t foreclose any options.”

On Tuesday, few imagined him walking through the doors of the state Auditor’s Office to resume his duties. Rather, for months, Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate, along with Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, have publicly called on him to resign and kept hoping he would.

“This is like a nightmare that keeps taking turns for the worse,” said Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, one of those pursuing impeachment. “I don’t think any of the legislators who signed the impeachment resolution asked him to take leave. Many of us just asked him to leave.”

A spokeswoman for Inslee called Kelley’s return “troubling” while House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen of Snohomish said he was “very disappointed.”

When Kelley took leave, it was an unprecedented action by a statewide elected official. He did so only after seeking advice from Attorney General Bob Ferguson on the legality.

At the time, he put department veteran Jan Jutte at the helm and vowed to resume his duties at the conclusion of the legal battle — presuming he wasn’t convicted.

Kelley’s mood changed Monday. That’s when Hunt and Reps. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn and Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, unveiled the resolution for impeachment they intend to introduce in January when the 2016 legislative session begins.

The state Constitution allows for impeaching a state elected official for “high crimes or misdemeanors” or “malfeasance in office.” Those pushing impeachment contend Kelley committed malfeasance by leaving his office empty and installing an unelected official in his stead.

“Can I defend myself? Yes, I believe so,” Kelley said. “I’ve read the constitution. It appears some legislators have not.”

Kelley’s return may fuel, rather than derail, the impeachment effort.

“It reinforces exactly why we did it,” Reykdal said. “He can show up on Tuesday but on the Monday before he didn’t want to be around the office. The only difference is politics. If he could be here why wasn’t he here the last 7 months?”

Kristiansen said he thinks the overwhelming majority of members in the Legislature support getting someone else in the job.

“Frankly, I hope the Legislature moves forward,” he said.

If the House passes a resolution of impeachment, Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said he wasn’t sure if the Senate can ignore it or if it must proceed.

Right now, he said, he’s “more focused on the caucus needs and agenda then Troy Kelley’s latest escapade.”

When Kelley arrived at work, he met with the executive team to share his reasons for returning, and expressed his intention to serve out his term, said Adam Wilson, communications manager for the auditor’s office.

Jutte then briefed Kelley on what’s transpired in the office in his absence.

“She’s done a great job,” Kelley said of Jutte, who will serve as deputy state auditor and be the agency’s point person in dealings with the legislative and executive branches in the upcoming session.

Kelley, whose annual salary increased to $120,459 during his absence, intends on keeping a low profile through the session, saying he doesn’t want to be part of any “political circus.”

“I will continue to perform the job the people of Washington have elected me to do and I will not back down in the face of political pressure and a false indictment,” he said in a formal statement.

<Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623;

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Miners Complex tops 500 acres in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Nine lightning-caused fires force trail closures and warnings 21 miles east of Darrington. No homes are threatened.

FILE — President Joe Biden arrives for a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 3, 2024. Biden abandoned his campaign for a second term under intense pressure from fellow Democrats on Sunday, July 21, upending the race for the White House in a dramatic last-minute bid to find a new candidate who can stop former President Donald Trump from returning to the White House. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Biden drops out of race, endorses vice president Kamala Harris

The president announced the decision on social media Sunday.

Granite Falls ‘10-foot alligator’ is actually a tegu named ‘Tazz’

Anybody who spots the docile lizard, last seen near Granite Falls, is asked to notify 911, so Tazz can be reunited with owner.

Photos by Olivia Vanni / The Herald
Gabby Bullock sits on her bed in a room she shares with another housemate on June 14 in Everett.
‘We don’t have openings’: SnoCo recovery houses struggle with demand

Advocates say the homes are critical for addiction recovery. But home prices make starting a sober living house difficult.

Melinda Grenier serves patrons at her coffee truck called Hay Girl Coffee during the third annual Arlington Pride event in Arlington, Washington on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Food safety team defends its work: it’s a ‘high pressure, thankless’ job

Management tried to set the record straight about long permit delays in Snohomish County.

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Global tech outage leaves a mark on Snohomish County

The CrowdStrike software update hit some systems at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and briefly disrupted 911 operations.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.