The Troy Kelley saga returns to the courtroom Friday for a hearing on whether the indicted state auditor should be recalled from office.
OLYMPIA — The Troy Kelley saga returns Friday to the courtroom, where a judge will hold a hearing on whether recall proceedings may move forward against the indicted state auditor.
The hearing, at 1:30 p.m. in Pierce County Superior Court, is separate from the federal charges Kelley faces related to a former real-estate-records tracking business he owned. If the recall is allowed to proceed, signatures could be gathered in an effort to remove Kelley from office. Kelley started an unpaid leave of absence Monday. It is unclear when he might return.
Kelley was indicted last month on 10 counts of tax evasion and lying to investigators amid allegations that he illegally kept more than $2 million in fees from prospective homeowners and then tried to hide it from the federal government.
He has pleaded not guilty.
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Judge Frank E. Cuthbertson will preside over the recall hearing and review three allegations filed against Kelley by Will Knedlik, a former lawmaker and disbarred attorney.
Knedlik’s allegations against Kelley, a Democrat and former state representative elected auditor in 2012, include that the auditor must by law reside at the seat of state government; Kelley lives in Tacoma.
The charges also allege the auditor “grossly abused his position of public trust” when he helped find a job in the Auditor’s Office for his former business associate, Jason JeRue. Acting Auditor Jan Jutte has since fired JeRue.
Against those two charges, Kelley is being represented by private attorney Jeffrey Paul Helsdon.
Knedlik also charges Kelley with failing to investigate Sound Transit in his role of auditor. The state Attorney General’s Office will be defending Kelley on that charge.
According to state law, recall charges must be determined to include misfeasance, malfeasance, violations of the oath of office, or instances of guilt in two or more acts justifying a recall found within the state Constitution.
Helsdon said he is confident the charges will be dismissed, and that a decision will be made quickly.
“I would imagine that the judge will rule tomorrow.”
If the court allows the recall to move forward, 715,800 signatures must be gathered within a 270-day period. That number — which amounts to 25 percent of all the votes cast in the 2012 auditor’s election — must be submitted six months before the 2016 general election.
But that signature count, as well as the criteria for deeming a recall valid, are both high thresholds.
“There are many recalls that actually don’t move to the ballot,” said Hugh Spitzer, acting professor at the University of Washington School of Law.