They called her many things back then. A liar. A conniver. But considering what has happened since Julie Anne Kempf was fired as King County...

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They called her many things back then. A liar. A conniver.

But considering what has happened since Julie Anne Kempf was fired as King County elections supervisor, could she also have been right?
Kempf, 40, and I met yesterday at the same cafe where I interviewed her in 2003, right after she was dismissed.

County officials said Kempf had deceived them over the late mailing of absentee ballots. And, they said, she nearly compromised the election by releasing a “complete” vote count that failed to include more than 1,500 ballots.

In her own defense, Kempf said then that the county’s whole election framework was troubled. She spoke of the aged, “clanking along” computer system and a chronic lack of resources — everything from the freezing of a key system-analyst position, to the assistant who quit in exhaustion to the death of the manager of absentee ballots.

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“I’ve been raising red flags for years,” Kempf said then, but officials didn’t listen.

In fact, she said, the same thing for which she was fired — absentee ballots going out late — happened again in May 2003. Soon after, Kempf’s former supervisor, Bob Roegner, resigned.

Fast-forward to last week, when the new heinie in the elections hot-seat, Dean Logan, was questioned under oath about the November governor’s election, in which Republican Dino Rossi lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire by 129 votes after both a machine and hand recount.

Logan told of errors in the handling of ballots and admitted the county did not follow recommendations by the King County Citizens’ Elections Oversight Committee, which was formed after Kempf left.

When asked if he knew if the gubernatorial returns were accurate within 129 votes, Logan said, “No, I do not.”

Kempf knew all this; she’s been watching the Board of Elections drama like some people watch “Desperate Housewives.”

“I don’t consider it a vindication,” she said. “I’m sad.

“Christine Gregoire shouldn’t be placed in the position of having to defend her legitimacy at the same time she’s trying to govern,” she said. “And Dino Rossi shouldn’t need a lawsuit to get to the bottom of what went on.”

When she isn’t poring through every new election record released to the public, Kempf is interviewing for jobs, doing some consulting work and fighting her reputation as “the county liar.”

“It’s extremely hard to overcome,” she said.

Do you feel that you were a sacrificial lamb? I asked.

“I know I was,” she said.

If she is guilty of anything, she said, it is of cowardice; of lacking the guts to stand up to her supervisor about the way she wanted to manage her staff.

What’s worse, neither of the fact-finding entities — not the Secretary of State’s Office nor the citizens’ committee — has asked for her input as they sort through the current mess.

“I would have liked to have been listened to.”

But it seems her reputation preceded her.

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

She’d save the boxes.