While Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley may interpret last week’s jury verdict as a victory, it is far from it, and it was a clear loss for the citizens of Washington who remain unable to close the book on this ugly chapter in the history of the auditor’s office.
Kelley, the first state official indicted in our state in more than three decades, was charged with 15 federal counts of fraud, with charges including lying under oath, possessing stolen money, falsifying tax returns and money laundering.
But jurors could not agree and failed to reach a verdict on 14 counts. They cleared Kelley of one charge of lying to the IRS.
Kelley’s job as the elected state auditor is to investigate waste and fraud, the very types of crimes he was accused of. Prosecutors had said Kelley pocketed $3 million that rightfully belonged to homeowners while operating a real estate services businesses before becoming auditor.
For his part, Kelley stood firm that he did nothing wrong. He took a seven-month leave after being indicted but then returned to work in December. He ignored calls for his resignation from the governor and others.
Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, co-sponsored an impeachment resolution that was never voted on.
Following last week’s announcement that the jury could not reach a verdict, Stokesbary wrote that his “position has never been that Troy Kelley was guilty (or innocent). What I have said, and still believe, is that public servants — especially one tasked with rooting out fraud and corruption in state government — should hold themselves to a higher standard than merely ‘not guilty.’ ”
And we agree. We also think the state should recharge Kelley on the 14 counts that the jury deadlocked on and hold him accountable with an actual verdict.
It’s obvious that Kelley is not a man willing to do the right thing, which would have been to resign rather than sully our state’s image with his personal drama. We are strong believers in innocent until proven guilty, but Kelley did not have to remain auditor while he fought his court battle.
That he chose to do so shows he put himself before the people that he was elected to serve.
While it’s a relief that Kelley has announced that he won’t run for re-election, that’s not good enough. Few people from the governor on down have stood behind him and most expressed publicly that they had lost confidence in his ability to do his job.
Kelley has had so many chances to be a leader, and take the right steps to deal with his business. It’s time he steps down. Maybe the fact that the jury deadlocked is vindication in his mind and he now feels he could walk away with a cleared name. If so we say go for it. It’s time for Kelley to get out of office and for the state to take a long, hard look at the counts in question and move forward to hold him accountable once again. Everyone deserves their day in court, but the public deserves a clear and concise verdict as well.