Disclosure Commission takes up Reardon case

Aaron Reardon faces no criminal charges for allegedly pursuing an affair on the job, but the Snohomish County executive still has legal headaches over using public resources to enhance his political fortunes.

The Public Disclosure Commission, the state’s campaign watchdog agency, recently began its own review of Reardon’s conduct during last fall’s successful bid for a third term.

Commission staff are conducting their own investigation, spokeswoman Lori Anderson said last week. They’ve already been sent reports and supporting records gathered by Washington State Patrol investigators.

Patrol detectives focused their investigation almost exclusively on whether Reardon misused county money for out-of-town romance. Reardon’s government cellphone bills, office schedules and thousands of emails were gathered up for examination by detectives. Independent reviews of those same records by The Herald and The Seattle Times found Reardon using office resources to make numerous calls to key people involved in his re-election effort, including to folks who later sent him campaign cash.

It is against state law to use public resources in political campaigns. The attached table, which focuses on some of Reardon’s most-frequently called numbers in 2011, provides a glimpse of what the paper trail shows.

It will be up to commission staff to recommend what should happen. State law allows fines of up to $10,000. The commission last summer fined Reardon for failing to properly report who paid for business trips he made out of the country.

The Public Disclosure Commission was created by voter initiative in 1972 to become the state’s election watchdog. All the current members were appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire. Many know Reardon.

The chairperson, Jennifer Joly, is an attorney from Tacoma and trustee at Group Health Cooperative. Joly’s career has featured a number of government jobs, including working for the Legislature and a stint as general counsel for former Gov. Gary Locke.

Commission members Barry Sehlin, of Oak Harbor and Jim Clements, of Selah, are both former longtime state lawmakers and veterans of numerous political campaigns. Sehlin, a retired U.S. Navy captain, and Clements, an orchardist, were powerful members of the Republican caucus during the years Reardon was in the Legislature.

Only the commission’s newest member, Amit Ranade, has yet to hear a case involving Reardon. He’s a partner in the Seattle law firm Hillis Clark Martin &Peterson P.S. The law firm regularly is involved in land-use disputes in Snohomish County, but there are no obvious indications of any personal dealings with Reardon.

The executive’s cellphone

In the months leading up to the 2011 election, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon used his government cellphone frequently to communicate with people involved in his re-election effort. Here are the most-frequently-contacted parties gleaned from county phone records.

Who Voice calls Minutes Text incoming Text outgoing Total text messages
Zach Shelton, campaign manager 151 581 314 291 605
Terry Thompson, consultant, TR Strategies 279 1,624 132 118 250
Colby Underwood, consultant, fundraising 165 590 170 143 313
Reardon campaign contact number 175 276 0 1 1
Fletcher Rowley, media consultant in Nashville 24 194 59 26 85
Totals 794 3,265 675 579 1,254

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