EVERETT — There appears to a lot of interest in an ongoing criminal investigation of Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon.
So far, county departments have logged more than 30 requests related to Reardon’s travel records and emails. The written inquiries from The Herald and other news organizations all have been made under Washington’s Public Records Act. There’s also a request from the Washington State Patrol, which is investigating Reardon for alleged official misconduct.
“It’s not unusual for us to get a flurry like this all at once,” said Lisa Hall, records management supervisor at the county’s Department of Information Services.
While not unusual, it’s not exactly common, either.
The last time the county received similar interest in public records was two years ago, Hall said. That was after Reardon’s former planning director, Craig Ladiser, was fired after he pressed his bare genitals against a woman lobbyist while golfing. Ladiser later pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation and indecent exposure.
The case focusing on Reardon began when a woman who works in the county’s human services department went to County Council Chairman Dave Somers’ office to report concerns about Reardon’s spending of taxpayer money on out-of-town trips while she was having an affair with him. Somers brought the accusation to county Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe, who in late October requested that state detectives look into possible official misconduct, a gross misdemeanor.
Reardon’s office last week released its first batch of records sent to state patrol investigators. They detail expenses for parking, cab fares, airline tickets and hotel rooms, most of which Reardon’s office has previously made available. Documents for U.S. trips list a lone traveler, while some foreign jaunts also involved other elected county officials.
Word of the patrol’s probe went public Nov. 3, less than a week before Reardon won re-election to his third term in office. The investigation is focusing on his travel during the past three years.
The woman who brought the matter to Somers has declined to be interviewed by The Herald.
For the past two weeks, Reardon has been away from the office and has offered limited comment on the investigation. Aides reported that he traveled to California to go rock climbing.
Reardon did send a brief email stating he is innocent. He has hired Seattle defense attorney John Wolfe.
Reardon is expected back in the office today, Deputy Executive Gary Haakenson said.
To better manage requests for information about the case, the county is routing all inquiries through its Department of Information Services.
That department is under Reardon’s authority but also is handling requests from departments run by other elected officials, such as the prosecuting attorney and the County Council.
The idea is to process complicated requests quickly and efficiently, said Hall, the records supervisor.
“In a situation like this, that’s highly visible, it’s important that you know we’re trying to make this as transparent as possible,” she said.
A list of the requesters includes Seattle television stations and newspapers, as well as people who frequently pepper government agencies asking for records.
One request is anonymous. A person who communicates with the county only under the screen name “Snoco Watcher” is interested in relevant documents only from Somers or other county personnel outside the executive’s office. The request specifically excludes departments under Reardon’s control.
State open records law applies to anonymous requests as well as to those made by identifiable people.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, email@example.com.