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Whistle-blower fears County Executive Aaron Reardon, newly released notes say

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By Noah Haglund and Scott North
Herald Writers
EVERETT -- Newly released records show the misconduct investigation involving Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon was launched after officials met with a county employee who reportedly said she's fearful of Reardon and believes he "could do her harm."
"I'm scared," the notes quote the woman as saying. The notes were taken at her Oct. 17 meeting with County Council Chairman Dave Somers and during a subsequent phone conversation she had with his aide.
The paperwork was released by the council Tuesday in response to public records requests.
The four pages of notes -- mostly single-sentence observations -- don't detail the woman's reported connection to Reardon or the allegations she shared, which launched the criminal investigation. They do include her reported claim that Reardon three months ago told her they "were being followed."
The woman's name does not appear in the papers released Tuesday. Information about the county department the woman works for was redacted prior to the notes' release because she's been extended whistle-blower protection, according to Kathryn Bratcher, the clerk of the council.
Reardon did not return a reporter's email or phone messages. The executive's top aides said he was in California and couldn't be reached. "He's rock-climbing and may not have cell service," Deputy Executive Gary Haakenson said.
Reardon previously said that he's done nothing wrong and he is the victim of "slimy" politics.
The Washington State Patrol on Nov. 3 announced that it is investigating Reardon at the request of the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's office.
The probe is focusing on Reardon's use of public money while traveling on county business, to places such as Washington, D.C., and Chicago.
The notes released Tuesday mention Chicago and New York City but provide no context. Reardon has visited those cities on county business multiple times since 2008.
The notes reference trips there by Reardon in the fall of 2010.
Patrol investigators earlier asked prosecutors to supply them with the county's policies related to credit cards used by employees. Those rules extend to Reardon.
The patrol has not contacted the executive's office, aside from submitting public disclosure requests, said Brian Parry, an executive director for Reardon.
The requests included calendars and expense information, Parry said.
The investigation became public at the end of Democrat Reardon's bruising election contest with Republican state Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens. Reardon triumphed, winning a third four-year term despite the revelations emerging as many voters still were filling out ballots in the all-mail general election Nov. 8.
It was people involved with Hope's campaign who tipped reporters. Hope's camp said they'd learned about the investigation when a potential witness told them she'd been questioned by detectives about Reardon's travel. But it was Somers and the prosecutor, both Democrats, who initiated the probe.
In keeping with state law that protects ongoing investigations, the County Council did not release information that detectives believe could compromise the investigation or which involves legal advice from county prosecutors.
Documents made public last week show Somers first met with the woman on Oct. 17, accompanied by aide Eric Parks. Another meeting was scheduled with her two days later, with a county attorney present.
Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe on Oct. 26 met with Somers, Parks and Jason Cummings, the county's chief civil deputy prosecutor. Roe immediately wrote State Patrol Chief John Batiste, requesting that state detectives investigate "a highly sensitive situation" that could have "significant impacts" on county government.
Two days later, the patrol agreed to take the case.
The notes from the woman's meeting with Somers show she has questions about Reardon's handling of $100,000 of "personal funds," but there is no elaboration.
There also is mention of the woman discussing somebody having a "letter that she threw away in Smokey Point" at some point, and "threats to/from ex-husbands."
The woman has an attorney. That lawyer was contacted earlier by The Herald but did not respond to requests for an interview.
The lawyer previously represented the woman in a workplace sexual harassment claim involving supervisors in the department in which she was working at the time. The case, brought in King County Superior Court, was settled without trial.
Story tags » Snohomish County government

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