Aaron Reardon denies misconduct but otherwise stays silent

EVERETT — Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon in an email Thursday denied any official misconduct during his trips on county business, but refused to answer specific questions.

Reardon has been away from his office this week just as details emerged about a Washington State Patrol investigation into his use of public money during county business trips. His top deputies said he was still rock climbing in California on Thursday.

The probe began last month after a woman who works for the county approached County Council Chairman Dave Somers with concerns about Reardon’s spending, including the use of county credit cards. The woman told Somers she feared that Reardon could do her harm, according to notes released under public records laws.

Over the past two weeks, neither the woman nor her attorney returned calls or emails placed by The Herald seeking comment.

The woman spoke with The Seattle Times on Wednesday and said she took multiple county-paid trips with Reardon where he did little or no official business. She also told the newspaper she had a longtime affair with Reardon, who is married.

Until Thursday, Reardon also had not returned phone calls or emails to The Herald.

In his Thursday email, he did not answer a question about his relationship with the woman, or whether she accompanied him on trips.

“I am innocent of all criminal accusations and am confident I will be fully exonerated,” Reardon wrote. “Out of deference to the integrity of the investigation I will reserve my right to comment until the State Patrol has concluded their review.”

Seattle attorney John Wolfe said Reardon has hired him and another attorney in the DLA Piper law firm to handle the case.

Wolfe issued a statement similar to Reardon’s email, saying he was confident Reardon would be exonerated.

News of the State Patrol investigation went public Nov. 3.

Since providing initial confirmation of the investigation, the patrol has declined to provide details about what detectives are examining. The patrol is seeking the past three years of Reardon’s emails, travel itineraries, credit card transactions and phone usage records.

Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe requested the investigation on Oct. 26, after the woman approached Somers, who said he was ethically bound to bring the matter to the attention of county attorneys.

The woman has been extended whistle-blower projection by the county. According to notes taken during her meeting with Somers, released earlier this week in response to a public records request, she’s fearful of Reardon and believes he “could do her harm.”

Reardon is headed toward a third term in office, after beating state Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, in the Nov. 8 election. In the latest ballot counts, which are ongoing, Reardon leads by more than 10 percentage points.

Dwight Pelz, state Democratic Party chairman, on Thursday declined to comment on Reardon until the case is resolved.

Kirby Wilbur, state GOP chairman, said Reardon should be considered innocent until proven otherwise. However, Wilbur said the nature of the allegations would make it hard for Reardon to perform his job while the investigation is ongoing. He suggested that Reardon let somebody else in his administration run county government for now.

“He should step aside and let somebody else run the county for a while,” Wilbur said.

County GOP chairman Bill Cooper said he’d also wait for the investigation to end before deciding whether to consider launching a recall campaign. Reardon’s latest term, his last under term limits, ends in 2015.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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