State Auditor Troy Kelley makes a breathtakingly foolish decision to remain in office while under federal indictment for tax evasion.
STATE Auditor Troy Kelley has lost the trust of the governor, lawmakers and his own state Democratic Party. Most important, he has lost the trust of voters, who are stuck with a man facing federal fraud charges as the state’s lead investigator for public-sector fraud.
He should resign.
Presented with a 10-count federal indictment for tax evasion, possession of stolen property and perjury, Kelley on Thursday instead said he will take a leave of absence. Kelley, in a statement, suggested that he thinks he can weather this storm.
That is a breathtakingly foolish and self-interested decision for a public servant. And it is even more so because of Kelley’s job. His office must be a model of integrity in order to demand it from other public agencies.
Kelley cannot do that job for a day longer. He should take the suggestion of Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Treasurer Jim McIntire, legislative leaders and this editorial board and quit, now.
Absent a recall, this is his decision. He could linger on leave for the next year, or two years. Meanwhile, he leaves the Auditor’s Office leaderless.
Kelley’s thinking is opaque. He apparently believes he will win. If so, then what? Does he imagine he could be credible as the state’s auditor?
The indictment, while not yet proven in court, is devastating to whatever political future Kelley imagines. He is accused of a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme from work in the mid-2000s in the mortgage-loan industry, of then hiding that money to avoid $1 million in federal taxes and lying when he was sued by his alleged victims.
In a statement, Kelley acknowledges that he’s known about the federal investigation “for the past few years.” At the very least, Kelley was questioned by an IRS agent just months after he took office and is now charged with lying to the investigator.
Washington state has a well-deserved reputation for clean government. Kelley has single-handedly given it a national black eye. Remaining in office, even while on a leave, prolongs the damage.
Politically, Kelley’s career is over. It’s time for him to walk out the door, for good.