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Northwest News Network

Troy Kelley Could Face Impeachment Proceedings In January

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley in a photo his office posted to social media January 16, 2015.
Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley in a photo his office posted to social media January 16, 2015.

Washington Republicans have been talking about impeaching indicted state Auditor Troy Kelley. But now one of Kelley’s fellow Democrats says it’s time to proceed.

Kelley has ignored repeated calls to resign from office. Now Democratic state Representative Chris Reykdal says the legislature should move to force him out.

“There’s a time to be patient and I think we’ve been incredibly patient and so have the voters,” Reykdal said.

Reykdal said he’s in early talks with other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle about how to proceed with an impeachment when the legislature reconvenes in January.

“I actually do believe the votes are there in the House,” he said. “I absolutely believe the votes are there.”

The Washington Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to initiate impeachment proceedings with a simple majority vote. However, the state Senate would conduct the trial.

The bar is high: two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote to convict based on a belief that Kelley had committed high crimes or misdemeanors, or malfeasance in office.

“My druthers and my interest and what I will bring to the table if people want to proceed is that it is narrowly worded to address the fact that he is not on the job, that he is not performing the duty and that the public trust is at risk in that office,” Reykdal said.

Last May, Democratic Speaker of the House Frank Chopp issued a statement on behalf of himself and Republican leader Dan Kristiansen saying it was “not the time to consider impeachment.”

But now Kristiansen has changed his view.

“It’s in the best interest of our state for Troy Kelley to step down,” Kristiansen said in a statement. “If he won’t do it, I believe the legislature should move forward with impeachment in January.”

Chopp did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said there’s been no formal discussion or agreement about impeachment.

A spokesman for Governor Jay Inslee said any plans to proceed with impeachment should be a joint House and Senate decision.

“It shouldn’t be done to try to make a statement because that could come at a cost,” David Postman said.

Kelley did not immediately respond to a request for comment through his attorney. Last month, Kelley made it clear he has no plans to resign his seat despite pressure to do so from all four legislative leaders and Governor Inslee.

Kelley has been on unpaid leave since May. He faces a March 2016 trial on a 17-count federal indictment. It alleges he schemed in his private business to keep more than $1 million that should have been refunded to homeowners and filed false tax returns. Kelley has pleaded not guilty and vowed to return to office vindicated.

The Washington Secretary of State’s office says it has found no record of a statewide officeholder being impeached in the history of the state.

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ARTICLE V - IMPEACHMENT

SECTION 1 IMPEACHMENT - POWER OF AND PROCEDURE. The house of representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment. The concurrence of a majority of all the members shall be necessary to an impeachment. All impeachments shall be tried by the senate, and, when sitting for that purpose, the senators shall be upon oath or affirmation to do justice according to law and evidence. When the governor or lieutenant governor is on trial, the chief justice of the supreme court shall preside. No person shall be convicted without a concurrence of two-thirds of the senators elected.

SECTION 2 OFFICERS LIABLE TO. The governor and other state and judicial officers, except judges and justices of courts not of record, shall be liable to impeachment for high crimes or misdemeanors, or malfeasance in office, but judgment in such cases shall extend only to removal from office and disqualification to hold any office of honor, trust or profit, in the state. The party, whether convicted or acquitted, shall, nevertheless, be liable to prosecution, trial, judgment and punishment according to law.

SECTION 3 REMOVAL FROM OFFICE. All officers not liable to impeachment shall be subject to removal for misconduct or malfeasance in office, in such manner as may be provided by law.

Copyright 2015 Northwest News Network