Politics & Government

Government lawyers will defend Auditor Troy Kelley against recall

State-government lawyers will defend Troy Kelley in court against an effort to recall the indicted state auditor.

A legal filing Friday by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office says the office plans to defend Kelley at a May 8 hearing against one of the three accusations made against him.

In that charge, Will Knedlik, a former state legislator and disbarred attorney who is seeking Kelley’s ouster, accuses him of failing to properly investigate Sound Transit and failing to report to work.

The Attorney General’s Office won’t defend Kelley against Knedlik’s charges that he improperly pressured his office to hire longtime business associate Jason JeRue or that he is not legally allowed to live in Tacoma. The constitution says the auditor must live “at the seat of government” in Olympia.

In the filing, attorneys noted that they have legal authority to defend state employees acting in their official capacity. They wrote that their limited defense of one charge doesn’t reflect on the merits of the other charges.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson will consider at the hearing whether the charges pass legal muster. If the recall goes forward, Knedlik would need to collect more than 700,000 signatures to place it on the ballot.

A federal grand jury indicted Kelley, a Democrat and first-term auditor, this month on charges that he kept stolen money, evaded taxes and obstructed a lawsuit and investigation.