By Scott North and Noah Haglund Herald Writers
EVERETT — Attorneys for Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon advised him not to talk to police in a months-long criminal investigation, in part out of worry that details of his personal life would become public, newly released documents show.
The records released Monday by the Washington State Patrol include transcripts of interviews with witnesses and correspondence in the case, which is now closed. The thousands of pages were gathered as part of an investigation into allegations that Reardon engaged in official misconduct by spending public money on travel with a mistress.
Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks in June announced there was insufficient evidence to warrant charges.
Lawyers Tyson Harper and John Wolfe on May 24 wrote Banks that their own review of records regarding Reardon’s travel and spending convinced them that any claims of misuse of public money were “meritless.”
The lawyers said they saw no reason to make Reardon available to detectives for questioning.
“Moreover, we have a genuine concern that the content of such an interview, including details of Mr. Reardon’s personal life that have no relevance to the investigation, would be promptly ‘leaked’ to the media,” the lawyers wrote. “This concern is based on the extensive history of leaks attributed directly to Patrol sources or ‘sources close’ to the Patrol in this matter.”
The documents made public Monday were released in response to public records requests. They detail how from October to May, patrol detectives interviewed nearly two dozen people about Reardon.
The investigation came at the request of Snohomish County prosecutors after a county social worker, Tami Dutton, reported that Reardon, who is married, had for years spent public money traveling with her on county business trips.
A transcript of Dutton’s Nov. 1 taped interview with detectives details travel to Washington, D.C., and Chicago and also at least one rendezvous with Reardon at a resort town in Mexico.
Dutton told detectives that she was friends with Reardon when they attended Mariner High School in the 1980s, and they reconnected years later when she volunteered for one of his political campaigns. The case file contains two love notes to Dutton that appeared to come from Reardon, and her claims that the two regularly met for sex at hotels in communities around Puget Sound.
“… We’ve stayed at the Hyatt in Seattle. We’ve stayed at the Hyatt in Bellevue and then we’ve stayed in seedy hotels, just like random seedy hotels like just when, you know, whatever … We’re just gonna go stay at a seedy hotel,” she’s quoted as telling detectives.
Dutton originally approached County Councilman Dave Somers with her allegations about traveling with Reardon.
“Uh, there’s probably some jilted lover thing going on there,” Somers is quoted as saying in the transcript of a mid-December interview. “I sincerely believe uh, her fear about her safety is well founded, you know, and reasonable so I … I think she had a number of things uh, that uh, brought her to the point that she had to talk to somebody and uh, as a way of protection and … and I think inside she wanted this to come out for whatever reason.”
During a wide-ranging interview, Somers described being struck by Reardon’s absence from most scheduled events when they both attended a 2006 trade mission to Australia.
“(T)hose trips are packed from morning to night with events and meetings and lectures and things like that and he didn’t attend … maybe once or twice out of the whole week,” Somers is quoted as saying.
Somers also asked detectives whether they were investigating Reardon’s use of county phones and offices, in light of Herald stories detailing evidence of the executive campaigning on the public dime. Detectives said they were looking into it.
In fact, patrol detectives spent little time on campaign matters. The state Public Disclosure Commission now has an active investigation into Reardon and has received the records assembled by patrol detectives.
“We really focused on what we were asked to investigate, which was the alleged misuse of public funds,” patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said in a recent interview.
That meant the detectives made a conscious decision to focus most of their inquiries on Reardon’s spending during county business trips with Dutton.
Only a single trip to Chicago in 2010 fell within the statute of limitations for official misconduct, Calkins said. During that trip, Reardon had legitimate reasons for all his spending except for $6 that went to cab fare for whomever was in his company, records show.
Some people approached by detectives during the investigation raised questions about Reardon’s close working relationship with land developers. Others claimed that county records that may have been related to the case went missing.
Calkins said there was no evidence that documents connected to the case were improperly destroyed.
Otherwise, detectives largely kept clear of matters that were beyond the scope of allegations related to Reardon’s spending while travelling on county business, records show.
“We wanted to be sure we didn’t go down rabbit trails,” Calkins said.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; firstname.lastname@example.org.