Aide to Aaron Reardon critical of State Patrol probe

EVERETT — An aide to embattled Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon wrote all the way to the governor’s office early this year to complain about the Washington State Patrol’s investigation of his boss.

Kevin Hulten, who works as an executive analyst for Reardon, on Feb. 23 wrote Gov. Chris Gregoire, her chief of staff Marty Loesch, Patrol Chief John Batiste and others.

He accused the patrol of violating state policies regarding criminal investigations.

“Five months of police leaks have irreparably damaged the credibility of the investigation and harmed the reputation of Snohomish County and many of its employees,” Hulten wrote.

Reardon since October has been the focus of a patrol investigation examining allegations of official misconduct. Detectives have yet to interview him; his attorney says that’s because of scheduling conflicts.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks already has been provided a 1,500-page investigation report supplemented by more than 12,000 pages of documents. It’s up to Banks to decide whether charges are warranted.

Hulten’s request that the patrol itself be investigated was obtained under state public records laws.

Documents show the patrol questioned a detective involved in the case, as well as Bob Calkins, the department’s public information officer.

Patrol records indicate Hulten’s allegations were not sustained. However, two days before receiving the Reardon staffer’s complaint, a patrol supervisor met with detectives to review guidelines regarding public information releases during an investigation.

That followed a Feb. 17 meeting between Chief Batiste and state Sens. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, and Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond to discuss the Reardon investigation.

The meetings came after news stories based in part on interviews with Tami Dutton. She’s the county social worker who claimed she traveled with Reardon on county business trips that instead were opportunities for out-of-town hotel room trysts. The patrol began investigating after Dutton in mid-October told a county councilman about how Reardon allegedly was spending public money.

A patrol detective acknowledged speaking with a Seattle Times reporter on Feb. 14, according to the documents released Wednesday. Among other things, the investigator told the reporter he believes Dutton is a credible witness. Patrol policies prohibit media statements about witness credibility. The agency determined, however, the detective did not intentionally violate the restriction.

A separate investigation of the patrol’s spokesman determined a different Seattle publication likely mischaracterized a response to a question, providing grist for another Hulten complaint.

Hulten had complained about comments attributed to the patrol “throughout the Reardon investigation,” the newly released records say.

Calkins earlier said the patrol made repeated attempts to interview Hulten about Reardon but without success.

Hulten commingled county business and work on Reardon’s re-election campaign, although he’s denied electioneering on the public dime. A former aide to Hobbs, Hulten was hired in early 2011 to monitor legislation and assist on constituent concerns.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@heraldnet.com.

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