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Jerry Cornfield |
Published: Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 9:33 a.m.

House leaders won't seek impeachment of state auditor

Indicted state Auditor Troy Kelley won’t face impeachment as House leaders have decided they don't want the proceeding used as an excuse to delay Kelley’s upcoming criminal trial.

House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, informed Lt. Gov. Brad Owen of their decision in a Feb. 19 letter.

“While we believe his case would warrant impeachment proceedings, we are concerned that such a process could be used as a basis to delay his federal trial,” they wrote. “Because we wish to avoid any excuse for delaying this trial, we are placing on hold for the time being any impeachment proceedings.”

Kelley, a Democrat whose term expires in November, has been accused of stealing millions of dollars from clients of his former business. He is charged with money laundering, lying under oath and tax evasion arising from his operation of a real-estate services business.

He's denied wrongdoing and is now scheduled to go on trial March 14.

In 2015, he went on unpaid leave in May and did not intend to return until his legal fight was done. But he changed his mind and returned to work in early December after four state lawmakers said they would try to impeach him for dereliction of duty.

Under the state constitution, the process begins in the House of Representatives. If the House passes a resolution of impeachment, the Senate would investigate and conduct an impeachment trial. A two-thirds vote is required to remove someone from office.

Impeaching Kelley had bipartisan support entering the 60-day session. But it had become increasingly unlikely as lawmakers closed in adjournment March 10. The letter erases any remaining speculation.

“We consider the charges facing Mr. Kelley to be very serious,” Chopp and Kristiansen wrote to Owen. “Although these charges all relate to his personal or other professional business, they undermine public faith in his ability to act as the chief overseer of government accountability and transparency.”

Chopp and Kristiansen conclude the letter by once again calling on Kelley to immediately resign.

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