The gloves came off almost immediately in today’s debate between the two candidates for state auditor, Republican James Watkins and Democrat Troy Kelley.
Watkins accused Kelley of a number of misdeeds last week, including stealing artwork from his former employer and setting up offshore accounts. Watkins posted courts documents on website that he says supports his claims.
Watkins brought up the issue almost immediately at the debate, saying a voter came up to him recently and asked: “Are you the thief or are you the other guy?”
Kelley said all of the cases have been dismissed. He said Watkins is continuing his attacks by having one of his “Facebook friends” file a bar complaint against him. “Mr. Watkins’s friend is a suspended attorney and has a personal restraining order for sexual harassment. Where the allegations are coming from is just amazing,” Kelley said.
“I’m not aware of this Facebook friend,” Watkins said. “I have thousands of Facebook friends.”
On specific ideas for the state auditor’s office:
Kelley said he is concerned about cyber security and would do audits on government computer systems to ensure they are safe. He said he’s also interested in looking at large agencies such as the Department of Social and Health Services because of fraud issues with EBT cards.
Watkins pointed to the state’s new $250 million data center in Olympia as an example of why the auditor’s office is needed to keep government accountable. He said the building is a “Taj Mahal of 1990s technology, woefully out of date.” Watkins said Olympia needs someone to “call these issues out and try to make them more rational.”
On making sure the audits have an impact:
Kelley said current auditor Brian Sonntag has done a “great job of making sure the press picks things up” and works closely with the governor’s office. “Those two things are moving in the right direction,” he said. Kelley said he would also like to see executive session recorded to increase accountability and access for the public.
Watkins said the auditor’s office provides money-saving ideas at a time when the new governor and legislature will be looking for reforms. “We’re not getting additional tax revenue,” he said. “Having a receptive legislature and governor will help make changes highlighted in performance audits,” he said.
Watch the debate below: