Jan Jutte is preparing to take over auditor responsibilities while indicted Auditor Troy Kelley takes unpaid leave to fight 10 federal charges of tax evasion and lying to investigators.
OLYMPIA — Thursday was supposed to be Jan Jutte’s retirement day.
But a few months ago, Jutte, director of operations of the state Auditor’s Office, decided to stay on for another 18 months.
That was before a grand-jury subpoena arrived at the office, before federal agents raided Auditor Troy Kelley’s home, before Kelley faced a 10-count indictment.
Now, after 30 years in the auditor’s office, Jutte, 65, prepares to take over her boss’s responsibilities as Kelley takes a leave of absence to fight federal charges of lying and tax evasion related to a business he used to own. He pleaded not guilty.
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Standing in front of Kelley’s desk and a wall filled with his plaques, Jutte on Wednesday tried to reassure people wondering about the highly unusual situation: an indicted elected official naming his replacement for an undetermined period.
For Gov. Jay Inslee, who has called for Kelley to resign, it isn’t an ideal scenario.
“Until we’re able to have a full-time auditor in there, he’s not satisfied,” said David Postman, Inslee’s communications director.
In a statement Wednesday, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson also renewed his call for Kelley to step down.
Ferguson added that while he can’t disclose advice his office gives to the Auditor’s Office, he has “great confidence in the dedicated employees of the Auditor’s office.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, according to Postman, Kelley hadn’t yet responded to Inslee’s letter demanding the auditor provide his plan for how the office will run in Kelley’s absence.
In the news conference, Jutte also attempted to answer questions about how the office has operated under Kelley, especially recently.
“Since we were served the subpoena on March 6, we have issued about 350 audit reports,” Jutte said. “Which I think indicates that our work does go on.”
But neither Jutte nor three other high-ranking auditor staff employees have seen Kelley, a Democrat elected to the position in 2012, in the office this week.
Kelley informed Jutte by phone Monday evening of his decision to delegate his responsibilities to her, Jutte said. The last time she saw him, she said, was last Thursday when they met at a DuPont restaurant so she could deliver documents to Kelley, who lives in Tacoma.
Jutte said she didn’t seek these new responsibilities, won’t run for the office if Kelley resigns and doesn’t plan to remain on the job past the commitment that she made to leave in October 2016. As director of operations, Jutte earns $116,940 annually — $10 less than Kelley’s salary.
Kelley preferred to communicate by phone, rather than email, Jutte said, and hasn’t spent as much time in the office as his predecessor, Brian Sonntag.
As for what will happen when she takes authority over the office Monday, Jutte said she planned to be more transparent.
“I think you’ll have more communication from us,” Jutte said, adding later: “We want to be open.”
Under Kelley’s management, the Auditor’s Office has refused to release legal guidance from the state Attorney General’s Office regarding how an elected official can take leave. The Attorney General’s Office and the office of Gov. Jay Inslee have also declined to release that guidance, and there is no example of this situation in memory.
As to whether the Auditor’s Office will continue to employ Jason Jerue, a former business associate of Kelley’s and the only person named on the subpoena delivered to the office, Jutte said she didn’t know.
“We will be having that discussion,” she said. Jerue, who lives in California and works remotely from there, is currently on leave without pay. He was not named in the indictment.
Kelley has insisted he is innocent and plans to fight the charges. He has resisted numerous calls to resign, including from Inslee, statewide elected officials and state lawmakers.
“I believe it is important for everyone to remember that under our system, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, in front of a jury of one’s peers,” Kelley said in a statement Tuesday. “I also believe it is important to note that none of the allegations leveled against me call into question my work as an elected official.”
In the meantime, some efforts have begun to remove Kelley from office. A pair of Republican state lawmakers filed a bill that would allow Inslee to replace Kelley when the auditor goes on leave. One of those lawmakers, Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, has also raised the prospect of impeachment proceedings in the state Legislature.
And recall charges have been filed against Kelley; a hearing will be held May 8 in Pierce County Superior Court to determine whether the charges can move forward, and signatures gathered