As indicted state Auditor Troy Kelley took his leave on Monday to fight federal charges, stand-in Jan Jutte also released legal guidance the Auditor’s Office received on how an elected statewide official could step away from his job.
OLYMPIA — It didn’t take long Monday for Jan Jutte to make her mark on the state Auditor’s Office.
Jutte — the veteran employee tasked as caretaker for indicted Auditor Troy Kelley as he began his leave of absence — released the legal guidance regarding how a statewide elected official could take a leave.
Jutte also ended the employment of Jason Jerue, the former business associate of Kelley’s whom the auditor helped hire part time in the office, according to Thomas Shapley, spokesman for the office.
The actions were made public within minutes of Jutte taking over Kelley’s responsibilities Monday afternoon as he took leave to fight the 10 federal charges of lying and tax evasion related to a former real-estate records-tracking business he owned.
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Kelley, a Democrat and former state lawmaker elected auditor in 2012, pleaded not guilty last month. He announced last week he wouldn’t seek any pay or benefits while on leave.
The legal guidance from the state Attorney General’s Office addresses questions on whether Kelley can be paid and what happens to his benefits, but not whether someone else can assume the authority of a statewide elected official.
“Common sense suggests that because the Auditor will be voluntarily and completely removing himself from the duties of his office, the state should have no obligation to compensate him during that leave,” according to the AG’s guidance. That analysis, however, is “somewhat uncertain” because no case law has addressed the question, the guidance says.
When they met last week, Jutte and Gov. Jay Inslee spoke about whether to fire Jerue, according to David Postman, communications director for the governor.
“The governor totally agrees with the decision in regards to Jerue,” Postman wrote in an email, adding later: “Ms. Jutte is certainly showing herself to be an independent and bold leader.”
It’s unclear whether Kelley will be using state health insurance during May. Taking leave on May 4 — rather than the afternoon of May 1 — allowed him to accrue eight hours and thus made him eligible for such benefits.
But Kelley’s original intent was to transition off state health insurance, according to Mark Firmani, Kelley’s personal spokesman. Firmani said Monday that he didn’t know whether that had happened.
Kelley had no comment on Jerue’s dismissal, Firmani said.
Other changes became apparent Monday as well, as Kelley’s photo and biographical page were removed from the Auditor’s Office website. A biographical page for Jutte replaced it, with the title Acting State Auditor.