Peninsula’s 3 state lawmakers agree state Auditor Troy Kelley should resign

Washington state Auditor Troy Kelley leaves the Federal Courthouse in Tacoma last Thursday after pleading not guilty to a federal grand jury indictment on charges of filing false tax returns

OLYMPIA — The North Olympic Peninsula’s 24th District legislators have joined the growing call for first-term state Auditor Troy Kelley to resign in light of a 10-count federal indictment issued against him last week.

The charges focus on mortgage title services companies Kelley ran before being elected in 2012 to head the state agency tasked with rooting out fraud and abuse in government agencies.

“Mr. Kelley spun a web of lies in an effort to avoid paying his taxes and keep more than a million dollars that he knew did not belong to him, but instead should have been returned to thousands of homeowners across the state,” acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said last week.

Mark Firmani, Kelley’s personal spokesman, said Monday that Kelley is awaiting word on the steps needed for the auditor to take a paid leave of absence, which he has said he intends to do May 1.

“We should have a clear picture of that by the end of [today],” Firmani said.

He said Kelley, charged with lying under oath, evading taxes and stealing more than $1.4 million, is not giving interviews.

Kelley pleaded not guilty to the charges Thursday after the indictment was unsealed. Trial was set for June 8.

“I can assure you that all of my actions over the years have been lawful and appropriate,” he said March 23 in a prepared statement.

But 24th District legislators Sen. Jim Hargrove and Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege said Monday that Kelley should resign.

They joined Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson in calling on Kelley, a Tacoma Democrat and attorney, to permanently leave office.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, a Ritzville Republican, and House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, a Covington Democrat, have also called on Kelley to quit.

The 24th District covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

“Integrity is everything about that office,” said Van De Wege, a Sequim Democrat and the House majority whip.

Kelley is a former three-term House member.

“This has been dogging him for a while,” Van De Wege said.

“A lot of it surfaced in the 2012 campaign.”

But Van De Wege said he does not expect Kelley to resign.

Tharinger, also a Sequim Democrat, said he recognized that Kelley is innocent until proven guilty but that Kelley’s options are limited.

“In this job, being an auditor who reviews government practices, that make it more challenging to keep his job,” Tharinger said.

“It seems his ability to do that has been brought into question.

“The governor has suggested he should step down and other people have.

“That’s their pay grade to talk about statewide elected officials.”

Hargrove, a Hoquiam Democrat and a senior member of the Senate, was reluctant to weigh in on the issue but agreed that Kelley should resign.

“I have not taken time to read all the charges and all that stuff,” said Hargrove, ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee and a former House member.

“It’s not anything we get to vote on.

“I’ve totally got my head down in the budget and am trying to get out of here as soon as possible.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at [email protected]

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