Judge to consider validity of Reardon recall petition

EVERETT — Attorneys for Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon have asked the courts to dismiss a recall petition against their client, calling it “harassing” and without merit.

A Skagit County judge is scheduled to consider Thursday whether the recall effort meets state legal requirements to move forward to the signature-gathering phase. That hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. in Mount Vernon, where it was moved last month to avoid a conflict of interest for Snohomish County judges.

The recall paperwork filed June 15 with the Snohomish County Auditor accuses Reardon of breaking state campaign laws by using his executive assistant and other public resources for political fundraising and lobbying. Anne Block, a Gold Bar attorney who also maintains a political blog, filed the petition.

In a motion, Reardon’s attorneys argue that Block has asserted “nothing more than bald insinuations.” The motion says Block has failed to demonstrate why she believes the claims in her recall petition to be true. Reardon’s attorneys also said Block has filed “numerous frivolous recall petitions against other elected officials that were rejected by the Superior Court.”

“For all of these reasons, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon respectfully requests that this harassing petition be dismissed,” the motion states.

Lawyers John Wolfe and Tyson Harper of Seattle law firm DLA Piper LLP, also represented Reardon during a months-long Washington State Patrol criminal investigation that concluded without charges.

That matter also was moved outside Snohomish County to avoid a conflict of interest.

In June, Island County Prosecuting Attorney Greg Banks decided there was insufficient evidence to charge Reardon with official misconduct. Banks limited the inquiry to the specific question of whether Reardon, who is married, allegedly misused any taxpayer money to carry out an affair with a county employee. He’s known the woman since high school.

Banks made it clear that his decision not to pursue a criminal case was in no way intended to condone Reardon’s behavior. Banks also forwarded the patrol detectives’ final report to the state Public Disclosure Commission, which is responsible for investigating campaign-finance violations and has the authority to levy steep fines.

Block also filed a complaint with the PDC.

The PDC’s civil investigation is likely to continue through late this year, at least.

“(I)t’s going to be months from now before we’re done,” PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said last week. “Most likely after the general election.”

Public records examined by The Herald show that in the months leading up to the 2011 election, Reardon used his government cellphone frequently to communicate with people involved in his re-election effort. They included key members of his campaign team and political donors.

Reardon’s schedules also contain more than 100 hours of “in office staff meetings,” many of which were coordinated to match the schedule of his political fundraiser, Colby Underwood. Reardon has said that Underwood, in addition to his campaign work, was discussing an alternative-energy venture at the county’s former Cathcart landfill.

If the judge allows the recall petition to go forward, Block will have 180 days to collect 47,444 signatures.

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

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