SEATTLE — Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley responded Wednesday to Gov. Jay Inslee’s concerns over Kelley’s firing of three staffers after his federal fraud trial ended, essentially telling the governor to back off.
“Please let the hard-working employees of the State Auditor’s Office do their job, and refrain from political grandstanding,” Kelley wrote, accusing the governor of using comments to create news coverage for himself in an election year.
Kelley, a Democrat elected in 2012, is the state official overseeing the rooting out waste and fraud in government operations.
A federal jury in Tacoma last month failed to reach a verdict on 14 of 15 charges against Kelley, which included possession of stolen property and money laundering. Prosecutors accused Kelley of keeping $3 million in fees he should have refunded to homeowners when he ran a real-estate services business a decade ago.
The jury acquitted him on one count of lying to the IRS while the other charges remain in effect. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle has not said whether it plans to retry him.
In a letter to Kelley on Friday, Inslee asked what personnel changes Kelley had made since his return to the office and wanted him to explain the specific basis for his actions. Inslee cited the state’s constitution in the letter, saying it gives the governor authority to require a response to the inquiries.
Kelley responded Wednesday saying he irreparably lost confidence in his office’s communications team, which resulted in three firings. One of the three included a woman who ran the office while Kelley took seven months of unpaid leave to fight the allegations against him.
“Frankly, in my view your request appears to be campaigning with taxpayer resources at best, and at worst another attempt to influence the ongoing federal administration of justice to which you directly reference in your letter,” Kelley wrote, referring to his trial.
Kelley also says he hopes the governor has a deeper concern for what Kelley called the “various serious management issues” facing the governor’s cabinet agencies. He suggested Inslee review the latest audit highlighting shortcomings in the Department of Transportation tolling systems and said he should review recent firings at the state’s Department of Corrections due to the early release of more than 3,000 prisoners because of an error.