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Government and Politics
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Troy Kelley Returns: 'I Think I Will Be Very Effective'

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Austin Jenkins
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Northwest News Network
Indicted Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley abruptly returned to office Tuesday, ending a seven month leave of absence pending his federal trial.

Indicted Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley suddenly returned to office Tuesday, pending his federal criminal trial in March for money laundering and tax evasion. The first-term Democrat is also under investigation by the state for hiring a former business associate to work in the auditor’s office.

Kelley had been on leave since May. But he abruptly ended that leave after four Washington House members announced that they plan to try to impeach Kelley for abandoning his office.

In a rare sit-down interview with our Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins, Kelley cast himself as a victim and drew parallels to an indicted U.S. senator.

But first, he talked about his sudden return.

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Troy Kelley: “I’m here because I was advised by many different people in the House and the Senate and our statewide electeds that because of everything going on seven months ago that I should take a leave of absence. I followed that advice and now there’s articles of impeachment based solely on the fact that I’ve taken a leave of absence.

“So that’s why I’m back. But I would have waited until the matters were resolved. But if they want me to work here while I’m working on those legal matters, I think I can do both.”

Austin Jenkins: “Why do you think you can do both given that these legal matters are not resolved and you have a federal trial just a few months away?”

Troy Kelley: “Senator Robert Menendez is in the same position and I have a lawyer working on the case.”

Austin Jenkins: “What makes you think you can be effective as a state auditor under the circumstances?”

Troy Kelley: “I think I was effective in the past, I think we did a very good job on our performance audits. I think I’ve been very engaged previously. I’ve obviously visited all of our offices but also spoke to a lot of our constituent groups that we work closely with and now I may concentrate a little bit more internally. So I think I will be very effective.”

Austin Jenkins: “Under the circumstances and since we haven’t had a chance to talk with you, how are you doing and how is your family doing?”

Troy Kelley: “Under the circumstances pretty well, but obviously the circumstances are very difficult. I talked with my wife before coming in and making this decision. Again, we were shocked to see what we did from the House calling for my removal from office solely for taking a leave of absence.”

Austin Jenkins: “You worked with many of these individuals, you were in the House, do you feel betrayed by your fellow Democrats and your former colleagues?”

Troy Kelley: “I feel like they’re trying to pick up political points. The person leading this is running for statewide office, it’s very hard to get publicity, I mean I don’t want to go into motives which we’ve been taught ‘you don’t do that on the House floor.’ But it’s troubling as you said, it’s troubling the way this happens and it’s not just here but looking around the country seeing how it happens it’s troubling.”

Austin Jenkins: “What can you tell us about why you hired a former business associate to work part-time from California in this office after you were elected?”

Troy Kelley: “I think today we’re talking about why I returned to the office and what I’m going to do in the future. Again, I believe all the actions I’ve taken here have been 100 percent appropriate. People who have known me know I’m pretty conservative with regard to spending money. I think we got our money’s worth from every employee we hired, without exception.”

Austin Jenkins: “What is your message to voters and the general public about how and why they should have confidence in you and think that it’s a good thing that you’re back and occupying this office pending trial?”

Troy Kelley: “I think you look at the rule of law, I think that’s what you look at first. I mean there are certain things in this country that are sacrosanct. The U.S. Constitution is one of those. That’s just a start. Beyond that look at my record, look at my record in the House, look at my record as the state auditor, so look at that track record. And each person needs to make their own decision.”

Austin Jenkins: “In retrospect do you regret having run for statewide office?”

Troy Kelley: “In retrospect, I would not have run for auditor, I probably would not have run for House of Representatives. Probably wouldn’t have done any of that. It’s just too hard on the family, too hard on my kids. I have one child who’s in high school and another one who’s in middle school.”

Kelley spoke with Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins in his office Tuesday. He has pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges.