According to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, the state can withhold pay when indicted Auditor Troy Kelley takes leave May 1. Inslee’s spokesman said that is based on guidance issued by the Attorney General’s Office.
OLYMPIA — Based on guidance from the Attorney General’s Office, the state can likely withhold pay when indicted Auditor Troy Kelley takes leave May 1, according to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office.
“Given the unprecedented circumstances, the analysis is somewhat uncertain,” David Postman, communications director for Inslee, wrote in an email. “But we believe the state has the authority to withhold pay, particularly given that the auditor is taking voluntary leave and that he has indicated that he will not perform the duties of his office after May 1.”
“At this point we don’t know whether Mr. Kelley hopes to be paid while not working,” Postman added. “The best option would be for him to decline to take the paycheck given that he won’t be doing the job he was elected to do.”
Inslee last week called for Kelley to resign.
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Kelley’s personal spokesman, Mark Firmani, said the auditor wouldn’t make any decisions related to the guidance Thursday.
“He received it today, and is going over it and we’re not making any conclusions yet,” said Firmani.
The state Auditor’s Office confirmed Thursday afternoon it had received legal guidance regarding Kelley’s leave, but did not release a copy.
Attorney-client privilege must be waived before the office can release any information, according to Thomas Shapley, spokesman for the Auditor’s Office.
“I expect Auditor Kelley to waive, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Shapley wrote in an email Thursday evening.
The state Attorney General’s Office has previously said it would not release its guidance.
The governor’s office also is not releasing the legal guidance, at least for the time being, according to Postman.
“It was advice from our attorneys,” wrote Postman, “and we will keep that among them for now.”
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said Thursday he hopes the information is released publicly.
Kelley, a Democrat who was elected auditor in 2012, pleaded not guilty last week to 10 counts of lying to investigators and tax charges, with most allegations related to his former business. He has said he did not break the law and was confident he could prove his innocence.
Since it’s unclear how a state elected official can take a leave — and whether Kelley would be paid — the state Attorney General’s Office was asked to weigh in. If Kelley goes on leave, the Auditor’s Office needs to know how certain tasks, such as approving sensitive or high-dollar contracts, would be delegated.
Kelley’s annual salary is $116,950.
One question over Kelley’s pay arises from a part of the state constitution stating that “compensation for state officers shall not be increased or diminished” during their elected term, according to Postman.
But, “We don’t believe that governs the particular circumstances here because the salary is not changing,” Postman wrote. “Rather, Mr. Kelley should lose his right to the salary because he is choosing not to perform the duties of the office.”
Correction: Information in this article, originally published April 23, 2015, was corrected April 24, 2015. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, was the House Minority Leader.