OLYMPIA -- State Auditor Troy Kelley will not be impeached by the Legislature, leaders of the House of Representatives have decided.
House Speaker Frank Chopp and Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen have decided against starting the process that could have removed Kelley from his elective office, even though they think he should step down.
Kristiansen said Tuesday legislative leaders were worried the impeachment process could interfere with an upcoming federal criminal trial for Kelley on charges of money laundering, possession of stolen money and filing false tax returns. That trial is scheduled to start next month in Tacoma.
Kelley has pleaded innocent to those charges, and was on an extended unpaid leave of absence for much of the last half of 2015 after the charges were filed. He rejected requests from Gov. Jay Inslee, other state officials and legislators to resign. In December, four legislators announced plans to impeach him for "willfully abandoning his office", and he returned the next day.
He said he wouldn't resign in the face of false charges, but said if he's convicted at the trial he would resign to devote full time to an appeal.
That resolution was never filed, but on Tuesday Republican Reps. Drew MacEwen, of Union, and Drew Stokesbary, of Auburn, did file articles of impeachment, saying his long-term absence represented "a dereliction of duty that cannot be cured by his more recent return to his office."
That move apparently comes a few days late. Late last week, Chopp and Kristiansen sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Brad Owen that the House would not vote on articles of impeachment, which means the Senate would not have to set aside time for the possible trial.
Under the state Constitution, the House can pass articles of impeachment with a simple majority. That sets up a "trial" in the Senate in which witnesses can be subpoenaed to testify. For a conviction, the Senate would have to pass any charges with a two-thirds majority.