Election crush prompts PDC to delay Reardon probe

A state probe into evidence that Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon misused taxpayer resources to campaign for his 2011 re-election is unlikely to move ahead until next year.

The state Public Disclosure Commission confirmed it was looking into Reardon’s campaign practices in June, after a Washington State Patrol criminal investigation ended without charges. Then the state elections watchdog became inundated with more time-sensitive complaints related to the 2012 elections. That’s left staff playing catch-up, and unable, so far, to address the Reardon matter.

“Since July, we’ve gotten 100 new complaints,” commission spokeswoman Lori Anderson said last week.

Compounding the workload was the loss this fall of half of the commission’s investigative staff. That leaves two people largely responsible for 28 open investigations, including the Reardon case. Six of the pending cases have higher priority, Anderson said, because the state is legally obligated to complete the investigations within 45 days or risks getting stuck with court costs.

The Reardon case revolves around public records showing that the executive campaigned using his county-issued cellphone and staff at times when official calendars suggested he was conducting county business. The Herald and The Seattle Times early this year reported on the documents’ contents, which were released as part of the patrol investigation.

It’s up to the commission’s staff to decide whether to recommend civil charges against Reardon. If they do, the commission will schedule an enforcement hearing.

The PDC has the authority to levy civil fines. It may increase penalties for officials with previous run-ins over campaign issues. Reardon last year received a $750 fine from the PDC, with $500 of the amount suspended, for failing to report that outside groups paid for business trips in 2009.

While the state investigation remains on pause, Reardon faces a recall effort spearheaded by a Gold Bar political blogger who’s also an attorney. A hearing is scheduled Dec. 5 in Skagit County Superior Court, where the case was moved to avoid potential conflicts of interest in Snohomish County.

The petitioner, Anne Block, also submitted the initial complaint in the pending state campaign-finance investigation. Over the summer, an earlier attempt by Block to start a recall petition against Reardon was dismissed on a legal technicality.

Under state law, a recall petition must present evidence that an elected official has engaged in wrongdoing in office before advancing to the signature-gathering phase.

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

More in Local News

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

John Miller, congressman, author activist, has died

He was known for his dedication to the marine industry, energy and human rights.

Church takes a quiet, contemplative approach to worship

Alternative services at First Congregational Church of Maltby offer “a good deal of silence.”

Funds up for council vote would aid conservation district

District stands to receive an extra $1 million each year, if the County Council gives its approval.

Snohomish County hosts its annual Focus on Farming conference

The event features a trade show as well as talks on agriculture, jam-making and more.

Supportive housing for man accused in attacking his mother

Mental state impaired man’s ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions, judge rules.

Lynnwood mayor challenged by councilman in general election

Three City Council members also are facing challengers on the Nov. 7 ballot.

‘Horrific’ child-porn case: Former Arlington man sentenced

Raymond Devore, arrested in 2015, had a cache of disturbing photos and video on his cellphone.

500 tires go up in flames at a store south of Everett

There were no injuries. And it was nowhere near as bad as that months-long tire fire in 1984.

Most Read