The race for Snohomish County executive took a nasty turn Tuesday.
State Rep. Mike Hope accused a staffer for County Executive Aaron Reardon of using a false name to file frivolous ethics complaints against him. Reardon said the employee had nothing to do with the complaints to the state Publ
ic Disclosure Commission and the Seattle Police Department, where Hope works as an officer.
The employee in question is Kevin Hulten, a former editor of the weekly Lake Stevens Journal and an Olympia legislative aide who now works on governmental and constituent affairs for Reardon. Depending on whom you believe, Hulten was either engaged in a sleazy smear campaign to further Reardon’s reelection, or he was set up.
“Unfortunately, the residents of Snohomish County have grown accustomed to the ethical lapses in the county executive’s office,” Hope said in a press release. “However, this latest action has crossed the line.”
Hulten did not return a call or an email seeking comment.
Reardon said Hulten is a public employee and not involved in his campaign. After learning of the allegations Tuesday morning, Reardon said he researched the complaint and confronted Hulten.
“There was no doubt in my mind that this was the first time Kevin had ever seen it,” Reardon said.
The executive called Hope’s allegations “a baseless accusation from a very, very desperate campaign.”
“I’m disappointed and embarrassed for him,” he said.
Voters on Nov. 8 get to choose between Reardon, a two-term Democrat, and Hope, a Lake Stevens Republican. In the August primary, Reardon took just more than 52 percent and Hope won just under 48 percent of the vote.
The complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission was filed in March. It accused Hope of wearing a Seattle police uniform in photos appearing on his county executive campaign site. The Public Disclosure Commission dismissed the complaint about the uniform Sept. 16, saying that Hope was wearing no legible patches or insignias.
The signed complaint came from somebody named John Chambers, using an address on Roy Street in Seattle and a phone number with a Florida area code. When the PDC sent an acknowledgement letter to that address in April, it came back marked “return to sender.” By email, a PDC investigator received a new phone number with a 425 area code, and a Granite Falls address for the complainant.
“I was worried about providing my personal info as the subject is a Seattle police officer and I live in Seattle and have had issues with the force before,” the person using the name John Chambers wrote in the email.
Phil Stutzman, the PDC’s director of compliance, said the dismissal letter to the Granite Falls address also came back recently marked “return to sender.”
Reardon confirmed that the Granite Falls address is where Hulten lives and that the local phone number from the complainant is one Hulten has used.
“I don’t know why somebody’s targeting a staff member of mine,” Reardon said.
Hope said he finds Reardon’s denial hard to believe.
“It’s clear to me that Kevin Hulten was making complaints,” he said. “Aaron Reardon just needs to ‘fess up to this.”
While the state dismissed the uniform complaint against Hope, the Office of Professional Accountability at the Seattle Police Department decided that Hope “failed to meet the performance expectations of the Seattle Police Department” with regard to employee political activity. The office recommended that Hope and a supervisor review departmental policies. That action is less serious than finding the complaint substantiated.
Hope said he’s confident that the department ultimately will dismiss the complaint. Hope said the same person also has filed public records requests about him with Seattle police.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, firstname.lastname@example.org.