Reardon affair revisited: What investigation cost

KOMO-TV last week aired a story recapping the recent Washington State Patrol investigation of Aaron Reardon, Snohomish County’s elected executive.

The piece featured excerpts from an on-camera interview with Tami Dutton, the county social worker who engaged in a multi-year affair with Reardon. If you are interested in another recounting of details about Reardon’s extramarital love life, you can catch the report here.

The KOMO story also covered ground we’d previously explored, including the WSP’s decision to keep a tight focus on the case. The patrol’s report (13,000 pages, including attachments) shows detectives were presented with a smorgasbord of allegations regarding questionable on-the-job conduct by Reardon. However, patrol detectives purposely limited their investigation to the question they were asked by Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe: Did Reardon misuse public money while traveling with Dutton on county business trips?

Although the affair lasted years, it turns out only one trip fell within the statute of limitations for misdemeanor official misconduct, and that adventure largely was paid for by a Democratic political group. When bills for that jaunt were tallied, the patrol concluded just $6 of public money was spent under questionable circumstances. Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks determined there was insufficient evidence to charge Reardon with a crime.

Reardon has yet to make himself available for any real interviews about the mess, which has expanded to include an investigation by state election watchdogs regarding Reardon’s apparent campaigning on the public dime. According to KOMO, Seattle defense attorney John Wolfe released a statement on Reardon’s behalf, reportedly saying the executive has “acknowledged a lapse in judgment in his association with Ms. Dutton.”

KOMO also quoted the lawyer complaining that the WSP probe kept detectives from investigating other matters, and cost taxpayers thousands.

Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said no crimes brought to the patrol’s attention went uninvestigated because detectives were tied up working on the Reardon probe.

He did agree, however, that the investigation was costly.

Patrol detectives and their supervisor combined spent nearly 700 hours — including more than 50 hours of overtime — working the Reardon case, he said. They interviewed a couple dozen people and pored over thousands of pages of records.

While those costs already were covered within the agency’s budget, the wages and benefits of those assigned to the case pencil out to about $31,000, Calkins said.

There is some irony in Wolfe complaining about the investigation’s costs. He recently filed 40 pages of the detectives’ reports to buttress his argument that Reardon hadn’t engaged in conduct sufficient to face recall.

Prosecutor Roe said that given the circumstances, asking the patrol to investigate Reardon was the only option.

“Any prosecutor in that situation has a duty to make sure that the allegations are investigated,” he said. “It’s something I’ve done hundreds of times in my career. This case was no different.”

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