Told You So...

Last week's big news--that King County fired its elections superintendent, Julie Anne Kempf--was hardly surprising. In fact, I hate to say it, but I told you so.

Three years ago, I broke a nasty story about Kempf (then the assistant superintendent of elections) that foreshadowed the current King County Elections fiasco.

In 1999, I caught Kempf evidently backdating records to cover up for her mom, Lucille Kempf--the treasurer of the 33rd District Democrats. Lucille Kempf had gotten the 33rd District fined for failing to file a year's worth of election reports. When Julie Anne Kempf miraculously discovered the missing records, our reporting showed the dates had been tampered with to make it appear that the records had been turned in on time ["Lost and Found," Josh Feit, Sept 2, 1999]. Bob Bruce, then King County's elections superintendent, agreed with The Stranger that things looked curious--as did the state elections commission.

Who rushed to Kempf's defense? King County Executive Ron Sims. After my story hit, Sims promoted Kempf to superintendent and sent an angry letter to The Stranger, calling our story inaccurate. Ha! A technical staffer at King County's own election offices told us Sims' claim--that it was impossible to backdate records--was dead wrong.

Fast-forward to today. According to a 17-page county investigative report obtained by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Kempf misled the public about when and why this year's absentee ballots were sent out late. In a replay of the '99 story, Kempf allegedly tried to backdate a Federal Express document to cover up the late mailing. (The flubbed mailing, by the way, prevented an unknown number of people from voting, and nearly a half a million absentees went out later than usual.)

While axing Kempf seems appropriate (and promoting her in '99 seemed idiotic), her removal hardly seems like a satisfactory conclusion to the recent scandal.

Both Kempf and her lawyer, Judy Krebs, have made provocative statements hinting that Kempf is the fall guy for a larger story. While Kempf is hardly a pillar of credibility (reporters have even caught her lying about her birthday), King County top dog Sims shouldn't escape the spotlight yet.

Given that in the final days of vote counting, monorail campaigners from Joel Horn to Tom Weeks to Patrick Kylen to Peter Sherwin all speculated that Sims--chair of the monorail's rival public transportation project, Sound Transit's light rail--was up to dirty tricks, I sure am curious to hear more than the formal statement Kempf issued to the press this weekend. (Late absentee ballots, monorail folks point out, gave anti-monorail campaigners more time to get their message out.)

This isn't the first time the monorail has been the subject of funny business at King County.

"We have noticed irregularities at King County Records and Elections since I-53 [when pro-monorail signatures were discounted by the county until monorail campaigners sued and won]," says Kylen.

A review is due from the secretary of state's office in early February. Then the monorail folks might be the ones saying, "Told you so."