Politics & Government

Troy Kelley mounts defense in recall case

State and private attorneys defended Troy Kelley in legal briefs Wednesday against a citizen recall attempt.

A Pierce County judge will consider Friday accusations by Will Knedlik, a disbarred lawyer and former state legislator from Kirkland seeking to recall the indicted state Auditor from office.

Those include that Tacoma Democrat Kelley is violating a requirement in the state constitution for the auditor to live in Olympia; that the Auditor’s Office improperly hired a longtime Kelley business associate; that he mishandled investigations of Sound Transit; and that he hasn’t been showing up to work.

Attorney Jeffrey Paul Helsdon is defending Kelley on the accusations that he wrongly lives in Pierce County and improperly hired Jason JeRue, whom Knedlik described as a “crony.”

Acting Auditor Jan Jutte fired JeRue on Monday within minutes of Kelley departing on a leave of absence to deal with his prosecution in federal court on charges that include tax evasion.

“Mr. JeRue was exempt from the state civil service laws. Mr. Kelley had the absolute discretion to hire him,” Helsdon wrote in a brief.

Helsdon wrote that Knedlik failed to show first-hand knowledge about many of his accusations.

The legal brief doesn’t concede even that Kelley’s residence is outside Olympia – but said assuming that’s true for the sake of argument: “There is no allegation, much less proof, in the statement of charges that Mr. Kelley failed to perform any duty, or performed any duty in an improper manner by not residing in Olympia.”

In a 1958 case dealing with elected officials’ expenses, the state Supreme Court “implicitly sanctioned their commute by automobile from their homes elsewhere to their offices in Olympia,” Helsdon wrote.

Before defending Kelley against recall, Helsdon represented recall proponents in prominent attempts to oust South Sound politicians Cy Sun and Dale Washam.

While Helsdon defends Kelley on two fronts, State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office is defending the auditor on the issues related to Sound Transit and reporting to work.

State attorneys wrote in their own brief that Knedlik’s charges lack specifics, and that Kelley exercised his discretion and didn’t violate any legal duties.

“State law does not require elected officials to work a specific number of hours,” state attorneys wrote.

If a judge decides the recall charges are sufficient to go forward, Knedlik would have to gather 715,800 signatures from registered voters for them to reach the ballot.