By Noah Haglund and Eric Stevick Herald Writers
Many of those involved in Snohomish County politics were caught by surprise Thursday when Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon announced his intention to resign on May 31.
The announcement came after calls for a new criminal investigation, an on-going investigation by the state Public Disclosure Commission and recent articles in The Herald.
A Herald investigation links members of Reardon’s staff to a campaign of harassment and records requests waged against people who cooperated with a 2012 Washington State Patrol criminal investigation into Reardon’s spending of public money.
Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick (Democrat):
“This is the end to an unnecessary distraction for our county. I won’t say, ‘Now’s the time to move forward,’ because Snohomish County employees and other elected officials have never stopped working for our communities. They have continued to serve the public with great dignity and respect day in and day out. It’s time that the great work that they do be the subject of recognition.”
Washington State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz:
“The Democratic Party would like to thank Aaron Reardon for his years of service to the people of Snohomish County and the entire state of Washington. While Reardon has clearly made mistakes while in office, we are grateful that he stepped forward to serve his community. We wish him and his family the best in their future endeavors.”
Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson:
“I recognize that the executive’s choice to resign his office was a difficult decision. What is best for his family, of course, is paramount.”
Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring:
“The county executive position is vital to the city of Marysville and all of the other cities. I will certainly make the partnership with whoever fills that position a top priority of mine.”
Mike Pattison, a lobbyist for the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties:
“We’re surprised but not shocked. It’s been a difficult time for Mr. Reardon. He’s leaving the county in good financial and administrative condition. For that, we can be grateful. There’s a time when someone has to put their family and other priorities in front and do what’s best for them.”
“We’re extremely pleased with how efficiently the county is running these days. With today’s news, our top priority is to make sure that continues.”
Chris Dugovich, president of Council 2, the AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) affiliate and largest union representing county employees:
“Some of the occurrences recently have been disappointing in the Reardon administration and somebody could have guessed where it was going to end up.
“The long view is we’re disappointed in things that occurred. In the short term, it’s not surprising with some of the things that have gone on.”
Snohomish County Democrats statement:
“We thank Executive Reardon for his career in public service, and wish him and his family well during this difficult time.”
Washington State Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur statement:
“It is a good day for those of us who believe in good government. As the leader of Snohomish County, Aaron Reardon epitomized hypocrisy, corruption and everything that is wrong with politics today. The significant abuse of power taking place in his office has left citizens of Snohomish County with a severe lack of trust in their leaders, something I hope will be repaired in due time.”
Rep. Mike Hope, R-Late Stevens, who ran against Reardon in 2011:
“No matter what happens with that outcome, there is going to be a black eye on Snohomish County. I think we need to be very pro-active in cleaning up our image.”
Hope received roughly 30 text messages in the course of a few minutes about Reardon’s decision to step down. The news caught him by surprise.
Hope said he felt no sense of vindication although he believes it is important for the county to follow through with an investigation of what occurred.
State Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, said many questions still need to be answered.
“I think it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also important to follow this story out, to follow out all the connections,” Dunshee said. “This does not end the story. The use of public money, we need to follow that out.”
Dunshee said that would apply to both the ongoing PDC investigation of whether campaigning was done during business hours, and to allegations raised in stories written by The Herald.
“Investigating your opponents is standard stuff, but when and from where is important to know,” Dunshee said.