County councilman calls for Aaron Reardon to go on leave during probe

EVERETT — The Snohomish County Council on Wednesday plans to urge County Executive Aaron Reardon to go on administrative leave pending the outcome of a criminal investigation into his use of public resources.

Councilman Dave Somers said Tuesday that the Washington State Patrol’s criminal probe has become a distraction for Reardon and others who are trying to run county government. Somers said he was prompted to ask Reardon to take a leave after revelations in The Herald and other media last week.

The Herald presented evidence that Reardon used taxpayer resources for his re-election campaign. Meanwhile, The Seattle Times and its television news partner, KING-TV, featured interviews with the female county employee who claimed a long-running affair with the county executive.

“The information coming out is really interfering with the day-to-day workings of Snohomish County,” Somers said.

In a press release, Somers said, “We’re in the middle of labor negotiations, deciding the future of our county’s waste-hauling services contract and other important business. We can’t afford these types of distractions right now.”

A vote on a resolution urging Reardon to step aside is planned during the council’s regularly scheduled 9 a.m. meeting Wednesday.

The County Council has no authority to compel the executive to take administrative leave. However, being placed on leave is what would happen to any other person in county government under similar circumstances, Somers said.

“With all this press coverage and all the information coming out, he can’t be focused on county business,” Somers said. “We’re distracted, so we know he’s distracted.”

Reardon, 41, has been under investigation by state troopers since October.

Tuesday evening, he did not respond to messages seeking comment.

If Reardon were to go on leave, his duties, under the county charter, would fall to Deputy Executive Gary Haakenson. Haakenson said he had no comment.

The probe of Reardon began after county human services employee Tamara Dutton went to Somers’ office to report that she had traveled with the county executive, who is married, on out-of-town county business as part of an affair. Dutton alleged that Reardon did little work during those trips. She and Reardon have known each other since attending Mariner High School in the 1980s.

Somers brought Dutton’s allegations to county attorneys, who referred the investigation to state troopers to avoid a conflict of interest.

Dutton has claimed that she also rendezvoused with the executive locally during regular business hours as part of the affair.

Reardon repeatedly has declined to discuss his connection to Dutton beyond acknowledging that they went to high school together. He’s denied wrongdoing.

Some of the evidence being reviewed by detectives has been made public under state records laws.

The documents point to possible misconduct.

The bills for Reardon’s county-issued cellphone show lengthy conversations with Dutton.

Those same phone bills, emails and Reardon’s official schedule also show that he made regular use of county resources for his successful re-election last year to a third term. The executive set aside 124 work hours on his county schedule for campaign work and made roughly 1,000 calls to campaign staff and those who gave money to his re-election. In all, that amounted to 43 hours dialing for dollars from his county phone while he was purportedly managing the county.

That activity constitutes a potential violation of state campaign-finance laws, which could result in steep fines. County rules also prohibit using taxpayer-funded resources such as phones and offices for campaigning or political fundraising.

Reardon has made few public appearances since election night on Nov. 8, though he did attend President Barack Obama’s speech at Boeing’s Everett facility on Friday.

In the press release, Somers called Haakenson “a proven administrator” with 11 years of experience as Edmonds mayor before becoming Reardon’s second-in-command in 2010.

Somers stressed that he is not calling on Reardon to resign, merely to step aside until troopers complete their investigation.

“Aaron deserves a fair hearing once the results become available,” Somers said.

Councilman Dave Gossett said he would reserve his comments for Wednesday’s meeting. Other council members did not immediately return calls for comment.

The State Patrol has declined to estimate how long the investigation could take. Reardon’s office is still supplying detectives with records.

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

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