A formal resolution in the Legislature would impeach state Auditor Troy Kelley, accusing him of “dereliction of duty.”
Two Republicans and two of Kelley’s fellow Democrats announced their proposal Monday, a bit more than three months before Kelley’s scheduled trial on 16 federal felony charges including money laundering and tax evasion.
The resolution, to be filed when lawmakers return to session Jan. 11, doesn’t mention the charges, which are related to his private business and not his conduct as auditor. Instead, it deals with the unpaid leave of absence he took starting in May.
“Troy Kelly (sic) has willfully abandoned his statewide elected office, performed none of its duties, and provided no services to the people of the State of Washington since at least May 4, 2015,” the resolution states. “This gap in service is a dereliction of duty that cannot be cured even by his returning to office in the foreseeable future.”
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The state Constitution allows for impeaching a state elected official for only two reasons: “high crimes or misdemeanors,” which by some legal interpretation could require conviction; or “malfeasance in office.” Lawmakers say Kelley committed malfeasance by leaving his office empty and delegating his duties to an unelected official, Jan Jutte.
Lawmakers discussed impeachment during the 2015 legislative sessions but didn’t act, even as many lawmakers called for Kelley to step down.
It takes a majority vote in the House to impeach an elected official, but a two-thirds Senate supermajority to remove that official from office — and only after a trial in the Senate. Republicans control the Senate; Democrats control the House.
“It is my hope that we can address this issue immediately upon returning to session in January, finally closing this unfortunate chapter in our state’s history,” Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, said in a statement.
“Auditor Kelley has demonstrated he cannot do his job while his personal legal issues continue,” Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, added.
Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, and Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, joined MacEwen and Hunt in proposing the resolution.
Kelley will review the resolution and is likely to issue a public response, his attorney Angelo Calfo said.
“The resolution does nothing to undermine Mr. Kelley’s success during last week’s court hearings showing that there is no legal or factual support whatsoever for any claim that Mr. Kelley stole money from title companies or homebuyers,” Calfo said in a statement.
Prosecutors say Kelley kept nearly $3 million in fees he should have refunded. A three-day hearing last week served as a dress rehearsal of sorts for a trial, with prosecutors and Calfo making their cases to U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton.
Leighton declined a defense request to split up the charges, but ordered prosecutors to give up more than $900,000 they had seized and tied to the disputed money. The judge ordered the money turned over to Calfo but frozen.