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Auditor cleared of election violation charges
"The Kitsap County Auditor's Office is in the clear after a review by the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office found no violation of election laws as alleged by the Kitsap County Republican Party.Karl Duff, chair of the county Republican Party, accused the Auditor's Office earlier this month of potentially violating state law following some alleged election irregularities. The Port Orchard Police Department investigated the allegations.Police sent information gathered from interviews with witnesses and Duff's letters to the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office to avoid a conflict of interest in Kitsap County. The Kitsap County Prosecutor's Office represents the Auditor's Office in court.Gerald Costello, assistant chief criminal deputy with the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office, wrote in a letter to Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge that a review of state law brings us to the clear conclusion that no crimes were committed - even assuming allegations of misconduct are true.He said any potential violations related to the state statute Duff cited would be a civil matter, not a criminal violation.Duff told police that Auditor's Office personnel refused to allow Republican Party members into a ballot processing room Nov. 9, saying they lacked training, but then let two untrained Democratic Party members observe and collect names from ballots.He added the Auditor's Office allowed the Democrats to remove ballots from the ballot counting room.Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn said both parties were afforded the same opportunities to observe ballot counting and to collect signatures. Duff also accused Auditor's Office personnel of processing ballots Saturday, Nov. 11 after saying the elections office would be closed during the weekend. Flynn responded that Auditor's Office employees were working overtime during the weekend, which she said is not unusual in the days following an election.Flynn denied Duff's accusations from the beginning, saying he started serious proceedings over an insubstantial accusation. Mr. Duff acted before he gathered the facts regarding the allegations he was making, she said. He filed criminal charges for issues that would have been easily resolved and explained to him. I'm disappointed that, in his position of leadership, he would undertake such a serious move without getting the facts.I'm relieved that this is behind us, but we all had to spend time and resources on a frivolous issue that was damaging to the process, she said.Duff has said he did not approach Flynn regarding the alleged irregularities before filing a complaint with the Port Orchard Police Department.Duff was not available for comment Monday.Costello said the only crime that could have been committed would have been if Flynn had knowingly or fraudulently violated provisions of the law related to her duty as the auditor, the penalty for which would be vacating her office.But, he added, proving the she acted knowingly or fraudulently would require evidence of criminal intent and, according to Costello, we do not discern any evidence of criminal intent by Auditor Flynn. "