Northwest News

Bill would block indicted auditor from increasing his pension

Three Republican state senators announced their support Thursday for a bill to make sure indicted state Auditor Troy Kelley can’t come back from his leave and increase his public pension.

The bill will be sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. It would block officials elected statewide who have been indicted from coming back and adding to their public pension after a leave of absence.

Kelley, indicted last month by a federal grand jury, has pleaded not guilty to 10 felony counts of tax evasion and lying to investigators.

He has taken an unpaid leave of absence to fight the charges. No end date for the leave has been announced, and he has rejected calls to resign.

Currently, an elected official can “come back after a leave of absence and pay their pension payments that were not paid during the leave of absence and thereby increase their pension before retirement,” Bailey said in a news conference.

If Kelley, a Democrat who was elected auditor in 2012, or anyone else subject to the law were found not guilty or the charges were dropped, the prohibition on retroactive payments would not take effect, according to Bailey.

Bailey estimated that if Kelley were to come back and pay into his account, his pension could be increased by about $200 per month.

“And over a lifetime, that’s a significant amount of money,” Bailey said.

Sens. Steve O’Ban of University Place and Mark Miloscia of Federal Way also attended the news conference in support of the proposal.

Mark Firmani, Kelley’s personal spokesman, said Thursday afternoon that he and Kelley didn’t have enough information on the proposal to comment.

The bill is one of several proposed in recently seeking to address the unprecedented leave of absence taken by Kelley. Earlier this week, a pair of GOP state representatives announced they were filing a resolution to begin impeachment proceedings against Kelley, although House leaders in both political parties have said that will not happen anytime soon.

Those representatives, Drew Stokesbary of Auburn and Drew MacEwan of Union, earlier filed a bill that would declare Kelley’s office vacant. Such a vacancy would allow Gov. Jay Inslee to appoint a replacement.