Shoot, The Sniff was all geared up to riff on Donald Trump’s recent visit to Lynden (or as Washington natives call it, Party Central), when along comes State Auditor Troy Kelley to spoil the fun.
The still-indicted auditor returned to work last week, after a federal jury couldn’t decide whether he was guilty of 14 out of 15 crimes. Jurors acquitted him on one charge, and couldn’t agree on the rest.
Federal prosecutors could take another run at Kelley, but they haven’t decided yet. Meanwhile, the auditor clocked in and promptly sacked three high-ranking staff members for daring to keep the office lights on while he fought the federal charges.
Asterisk: Actually, it’s not clear why Kelley fired the staff members, since he wouldn’t tell them or the public, in keeping with his longstanding commitment to transparency, accountability and detailed explanation. (OK, that was sarcasm — Kelley’s about as chatty as Calvin Coolidge, and plain-spoken as your average mortgage contract.)
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Kelley’s about as chatty as Calvin Coolidge, and plain-spoken as your average mortgage contract.
Two of the fired staffers, Thomas Shapley and Adam Wilson, handled communications for Kelley’s office. For the last year, that dreary duty amounted to declining comment when asked by the press about the boss’s woes; not an easy task for Shapley, who’s handled spokesperson duties for multiple state agencies over the years, or for Wilson, an ex-newsie hired in 2013. But they stuck to their no-comment guns, nonetheless.
The third staffer, Doug Cochran, was Kelley’s chief of staff, and an 11-year veteran of the auditor’s office. Kelley gave no reason for the firing, apart from “for the good of the organization” that Cochran had been running while Kelley didn’t.
Cochran’s job involved handling day-to-day ops at the shop for Deputy State Auditor Jan Jutte, who tried to preserve a semblance of order while state lawmakers interrogated the staff and gave the auditor’s office the political equivalent of a swirly.
Following this week’s firings, Gov. Big Jay Inslee penned a letter to Kelley, seeking clearer reasons for dumping staffers who “worked diligently to maintain high standards, fulfill the mission of the Auditor's Office and serve the people of the state of Washington.”
Kelley’s written answer, sent Wednesday: Mind your own bidness, Big Jay — and clean up your own house. The beleaguered auditor accused the Guv of “political grandstanding,” and shed no additional light on the firing decisions, apart from saying, in effect, that he can hire and fire as he pleases.
Nice. Maybe it’s worth noting that Kelley was asked numerous times to resign over the last year for the good of the organization.
Nice. Maybe it’s worth noting that Kelley was asked numerous times to resign over the last year for the good of the organization. The requests came from lawmakers in both parties, as well as Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Big Jay himself.
Faced with those requests, Kelley refused, and kept collecting his state salary — but he expected instant resignations from his staffers, and no argument.
Kelley’s a lame duck; he’s already said he won’t run for re-election this year. He’ll be out the door by December, and he’s still got the federal indictment hanging over his head. Inslee and state lawmakers didn’t raid his house last year, or charge him with crimes. Neither did Kelley’s fired staffers.
As for the good of the organization? Well, things are running as smoothly as ever under Kelley’s leadership. His latest generic email, announcing new audit reports from his office, cheerily suggests sending questions to none other than Wilson, the chief of staff he fired last week.
One local wit familiar with the workings of state government passed that message along to The Sniff, with a dry comment: “Perhaps if the professional communications staff hadn’t been purged the weekly email update could have been changed for audit contact information.”
Zing! The auditor himself will be gone soon enough. But in the interim, he’s showing as much class as a van by the river.
Howdy, buddy: The Snoot loves nothing more than faux-friendliness from perfect strangers pitching click-bait. This week’s Sniffbox included a memorable highlight.
“Hi guys. It’s Kim over at Zippia. I hope you are having a great day,” the message ran.
Oh, of course, THAT Kim. We know so many Kims, Kim Over At Zippia, so thanks for the clarification. This is like meeting a distant acquaintance you haven’t seen or spoken to for years, not remembering the name and gradually recalling that you never cared. By the way, what’s Zippia?
This is like meeting a distant acquaintance you haven’t seen or spoken to for years, not remembering the name and gradually recalling that you never cared.
Clicking … clicking … aha! It’s some sort of career-slash-job-hunting site. The note from faux-friend Kim points to a listicle naming Ruston as the sixth-best small town in America, based on census stats, so you know the designation is rock-solid.
Maybe you mean the sort of science that used to be edgy in the early days of what journalists once called computer-assisted reporting (preceded by typewriter-assisted reporting). Ah, you’re speaking digital newsie language now; grab random data, filter through fast-food prism, slice, dice, make list, declare trend and presto, instant freeze-dried news product!
Hey, we’ve got nothing against Ruston. The town hall is charming. The traffic enforcement is awesome. The local government runs like a well-oiled machine, and no one ever disagrees about anything.
It’s just that “small town” tends to evoke images of towns that are actually small, as opposed to little enclaves surrounded by big cities. (Looking at you, Fircrest, and ducking … ow!)