By Scott North and Noah Haglund
Stick with a story long enough and patterns become clear. Sometimes events unfold so predictably they almost can be jotted down on a calendar ahead of time.
So it is with the scandal that continues to dog Aaron Reardon, Snohomish County’s elected executive. It also continues to complicate life for many county employees, particularly those with even a tangential connection to bringing allegations against him to light.
Reardon spent much of this year — the start of what term limits mandate will be his final four-years at the county’s’ helm — the focus of a criminal investigation. Island County’s prosecutor ultimately ruled there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Reardon related to his documented traveling with a county social worker for out-of-state hotel room trysts.
The state Public Disclosure Commission opened a civil inquiry based on phone records and other evidence that emerged during the Washington State Patrol investigation. The documents detail Reardon’s use of public resources in his 2011 campaign. Nothing likely will happen on that front until after the November elections.
That may be in the cards, too, for an effort to bring Reardon up for a recall vote. The attempt, spearheaded by Anne Block, a Gold Bar political blogger with a law degree, was tossed out of court because she failed to file paperwork under oath. She immediately refiled, apparently pooh-poohing the flaws Reardon’s lawyer highlighted in her first petition. Block has since sent us a string of emails she had with Reardon’s lawyer and a deputy prosecutor who represents county elections officials, fighting over pretty much everything, including where and when to schedule the next court hearing. In one message, she told the other lawyers she expects the Reardon recall matter will wind up in front of the state Supreme Court. No doubt, the justices will be thrilled.
Meanwhile, somebody using the name “Edmond” has filed a series of public records requests with the State Patrol and with county government, seeking records related to the Reardon investigation.
At the county, officials doubt that “Edmond” is the requester’s true identity. Rather, they think the person is using the Web’s anonymity while prospecting for dirt.
“Edmond” has used different email accounts that trace to recently registered web domains. The paper trail for each leads to the same post office drop box in Bellevue.
As the law allows, the requester is seeking access to phone records, county email accounts, travel records — the same sort of documentation that patrol detectives pulled together while investigating Reardon.
The requester has asked the county to turn over those records for Reardon and Deputy Executive Gary Haakenson. Still, the bulk of those targeted reads like a “who’s who” of named witnesses in the case, including folks in county government who had a role in bringing questions about the executive to the attention of law enforcement.
There is former Reardon mistress Tami Dutton and two of her girlfriends who work in county jobs; councilmen Dave Somers and Brian Sullivan plus members of their staff; Auditor Carolyn Weikel, whose husband Gary Weikel, a retired career county employee, urged patrol detectives to investigate Reardon on a number of fronts; and six members of the county prosecutor’s office.
The person wants email and phone records for Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe, Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor Jason Cummings, and both of their wives, who also have county careers.
Noticeably absent from the list are several employees in Reardon’s office, some of whom figured prominently in the state patrol investigation.
Roe said he’s got about 4,000 emails and will turn over those the law requires. If somebody is looking for evidence of conspiracy, however, they will be disappointed, he said.
“I guarantee (the email) will reveal poor spelling, lack of punctuation, a certain amount of coarse language and some offensive humor,” he said.
Roe said he accepts that such information will become public, but he fails to see how filling these requsts will serve the public good.
“This is going to take scores, if not hundreds of hours, to go through all this stuff,” he said. “Whoever is doing it is taking a flame thrower to taxpayer money.”
Whether “Edmond” is serious about examining the records is another question. The State Patrol compiled the Reardon investigation documents he requested. On July 25, they told him that packet was ready for pick up.
“He said via e-mail that he’d arrange to have it picked up, but he never followed through,” patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said this week.
We wrote “Edmond” to find out what is up. We’ll let you know if we hear back.