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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Editorial: Impeach Auditor Troy Kelley if he won’t resign

Troy Kelley must resign as state auditor or be removed from an office he hasn’t occupied since May.

Kelley, a Tacoma Democrat, has ignored the resignation requests of Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Democrats in the House of Representatives, where Kelley served three terms, have been patient – too patient – and now some are working on an effort to impeach him.

Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, says an impeachment bill would be narrowly focused on a simple fact: The elected auditor isn’t doing his job. The criminal charges would be kept out of it.

Kelley took an unpaid leave of absence after federal prosecutors in April filed a 10-count indictment against him on charges of theft, money laundering and tax fraud. In September, the feds increased the count to 17 charges, and a trial has been set for March.

He resurfaced in court this week as he seeks the return of about $900,000 prosecutors impounded.

Kelley’s legal peril aside, it’s clear that he isn’t performing the tasks for which he was elected and won’t be for a long time, if ever.

It doesn’t appear as if he was doing much work before the indictment either.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported in April that Kelley rarely used his state email account, and his calendar didn’t account for his whereabouts about one-third of the time during his first 22 months in office. A search of his office computer’s Internet browser showed 10 days of activity over 16 months.

What was he doing? Scrambling to stave off people who accused him of theft, according to an in-depth report by Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network.

Whether he knew it or not, Kelley was the subject of a federal criminal investigation from the time he took office. The feds’ interest was piqued when a political opponent in the 2012 auditor’s race publicized the fact that Kelley paid a settlement to a former employer.

As a candidate, Kelley brushed it off, saying it was a “nuisance” lawsuit that had been dismissed. In reality, he paid $1 million to settle a lawsuit in which he was accused of wrongfully taking $1.2 million.

In his business of reconveying mortgage fees, Kelley engaged in this kind of dissembling and dodging over and over from 2011 to 2015, according to Jenkins’ article. He is accused of keeping $1.5 million in fees that should have been remitted to homeowners.

Even if Kelley were to be exonerated on the criminal charges, he has proven to be dishonest and unethical. His return to the auditor’s office would stain the reputation of perhaps the most respected agency in the state. As former Auditor Brian Sonntag wrote in an op-ed for the News Tribune, Kelley “has abandoned his duties to the office and Washington citizens.” The agency needs a leader to advance the causes of open and honest government.

With Kelley absent, the state Legislature took $6 million earmarked for performance audits. He should have been there to battle for those funds. Instead, he is battling to stay out of jail.

Impeach him.