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Published: Monday, February 25, 2013, 6:37 p.m.

Aide at center of Reardon turmoil files complaint against county

EVERETT -- An aide at the center of a scandal that last week led Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon to announce his resignation was still on the job Monday and seeking "whistle blower" protection while urging an investigation of county prosecutors.
Nobody working for county government would speak on the record about the complaint Reardon's legislative analyst, Kevin Hulten, made to the County Council.
Some familiar with the complaint said it alleges Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe and other members of his staff have conspired against Reardon.
In an unusual move, King County prosecutors have agreed to advise the Snohomish County Council on how to respond.
The complaint alleges "government misconduct," said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County prosecutor's office. He declined to discuss the allegations or who brought them, but said his office agreed to provide civil legal advice to the Snohomish County Council because the accusations raise a potential conflict of interest.
County Council Chairwoman Stephanie Wright acknowledged that she's received a complaint, but also would not confirm who it came from or what it alleges.
Roe said he became aware of the complaint late last week when Wright brought it to his attention. He said he didn't read it because it presents a conflict of interest for his office.
County prosecutors generally provide legal advice to the County Council, but couldn't in this case because Roe and others are the focus of the allegations.
Roe said he immediately contacted King County prosecutors to seek their assistance on the county council's behalf.
The complaint arrived as Roe was trying to find a law enforcement agency in the state willing to conduct an independent, outside investigation of Hulten and others in Reardon's office.
The county council and Roe agreed the inquiry is necessary after The Herald published evidence linking Hulten and another Reardon staffer, Jon Rudicil, to online attack pages, spoof email accounts and a series of records requests brought by somebody named "Edmond Thomas," all focused on people considered the executive's political rivals.
Many of the targets were witnesses in the Washington State Patrol investigation of Reardon's use of public funds.
Roe said he wants an investigation to determine if any laws were broken.
However, because of the complaint, he's leaving it up to the county council and their substitute legal counsel to decide how the investigation will proceed.
What does Roe make of the complaint's timing and focus?
"I'm not sure you'd need a law degree to figure that one out," he said. "Nonetheless, it doesn't change our job or our duty, regardless of who the complainant is, or isn't."
Reardon on Thursday said he plans to resign May 31. During that announcement, Reardon said he, too, would request a formal investigation. The executive said it should look into "all allegations made against me and members of my staff as well as any other issues suggesting misconduct by other Snohomish County government officials."
Hulten and Rudicil are still employed by Reardon's office and there has been no change in their status, Deputy Executive Gary Haakenson said Monday.
When Reardon was under investigation last year, Hulten complained about patrol detectives all the way to then-Gov. Chris Gregoire. He also refused to meet with investigators to answer questions, records show.
Hulten on Monday did not respond to emails and phone calls from The Herald. In recent days he's posted on Twitter, claiming he's spent weeks analyzing county phone records which he contends show prosecutors leaking information about Reardon's troubles. He's accused The Herald of trying to keep the evidence from being released.
"For or against Reardon, it doesn't matter." Hulten tweeted on Sunday. "Circumventing the vote of the people is a serious matter. And that's what happened."
Reardon made an appearance at Monday's county council meeting, supporting a resolution to mark the 50th anniversary of the county's parks department.
The executive rarely attends council meetings, his last appearance coming during a fall 2012 budget hearing.
As he left the council meeting, Reardon turned aside questions from The Herald, saying he will answer them in time, but his schedule was too busy.
The executive's office issued a statement Feb. 14, saying Hulten had apologized for any embarrassment that "his outside and personal activities" may have caused Reardon. The statement did not specify the activity Hulten has admitted, and Reardon didn't elaborate Monday.
"I think I've already answered that question," he said before getting into an elevator.
Some current and former county employees on Monday reacted to the county's problems with calls for solidarity.
Fred Bird, a former county spokesman who worked for the county council and as a spokesman for former executive Bob Drewel, on Monday began circulating on Facebook a call to support county leaders trying to respond to "the embarrassment and disengagement that the lack of credible executive leadership imposed on our community" in recent years.
Bird wrote: "The people's county institutions, for which we have dedicated all or most of our working lives, have finally begun to pull themselves out of an economic and spiritual abyss. Now, more than ever, it is time for we 'county' alumni -- and all Snohomish County employees -- to stand assertively in solidarity with our elected county leaders as they face the daunting and humble task of restoring the public's faith in all of us."
Scott North: 425-339-3431, north@heraldnet.com.

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