New data details mischief by former Reardon aide

EVERETT — More evidence has surfaced detailing the frequency and scope of politically motivated mischief within Aaron Reardon’s office while he was still Snohomish County executive.

The King County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday released more than 30 gigabytes of files and other data copied from computers assigned to Reardon and his key aides from 2011 to 2013.

The materials, harvested from nine Snohomish County-owned computers, were made available under state public records laws.

The information was gathered by King County detectives investigating whether any laws were broken in 2012 and early 2013 during what appeared to be a covert campaign of harassment and surveillance aimed at Reardon’s rivals.

Former Reardon aide Kevin Hulten has admitted to filing a series of records requests using the false name “Edmond Thomas.” He’s insisted the activity was part of a secret effort to root out corruption, and that he was a government “whistle blower.”

The data released this week shows Hulten began targeting Reardon’s rivals almost as soon as he started his job in January 2011 and continued unabated until he was placed on leave, and ultimately resigned, in May 2013.

The King County detectives subjected the Snohomish County computers to forensic analysis. They not only captured documents and files created by those using the devices, but compiled reports detailing the Web sites visited, the logons created and used and the cloud-based data storage services visited.

The King County detectives already have reported that their analysis found evidence that Hulten loaded a data-wiping program onto the laptop he was using from June 2012 to March 2013, the period when most of the “Edmond Thomas” activity was unfolding. They say Hulten scrubbed data before they had a chance to examine the device.

Similar problems didn’t surface on the other computers examined. Among other things, the materials released this week show:

  • A county laptop assigned to Hulten repeatedly was used during the summer of 2011 to develop Reardon’s campaign website.
  • The same device was used to create a Website that featured documents Hulten dug up at the Seattle Police Department, seeking to embarrass Reardon’s general election opponent, state Rep. Mike Hope, R-Mill Creek.
  • Documents were recovered showing Hulten worked closely with an Olympia attorney to spur the state Public Disclosure Commission to open investigations of Hope.
  • A desktop computer in Hulten’s county office was used to create gmail logons and send messages for “Edmond Thomas,” the pseudonym the Reardon aide adopted while seeking records and threatening the county with lawsuits.
  • Browser history on the desktop computer shows it was used in August 2012 to build a Wikipedia attack page that focused on Anne Block, a Gold Bar attorney who at the time was trying to mount a recall election for Reardon and also pursuing public records about Hulten.
  • The browser history also shows Hulten in August 2012 using his county desktop computer to set up a login for the services of HideMyAss.com. The site provides proxy servers that make it almost impossible to trace somebody’s messages or interactions on Web pages.

Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich continues to review evidence from King County detectives to determine whether any criminal charges are appropriate.

“We will put as much time into it so we make a good decision, whatever that requires,” Weyrich said Thursday.

The state elections watchdog has separate ongoing civil investigations into whether Reardon and Hulten broke state campaign laws.

Reardon resigned as county executive in May.

Scott North: 425-339-3431, north@heraldnet.com.

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