By Noah Haglund and Scott North Herald Writers
EVERETT — The Snohomish County social worker who sparked a 2011 criminal investigation of then-County Executive Aaron Reardon has filed a $750,000 damage claim against the county.
Tamara Dutton claims she has been subjected to harassment, discrimination and retaliation by co-workers because of her six-year affair with the married former county executive. She wants the cash settlement in exchange for her resignation and agreement to dismiss all legal claims against the county.
“I have suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the county’s actions,” Dutton states in the Oct. 6 claim.
A damage claim usually is a first step before a lawsuit is brought against a public agency.
Jason Cummings, the county’s chief civil deputy prosecutor, said county attorneys are reviewing the matter and will take appropriate action.
County civil prosecutors represent the interests of county taxpayers, and while Reardon is a former county elected official, he is no longer a county client, Cummings said.
Reardon last week filed a public records request to review the damage claim, records show. He responded to an email Wednesday seeking comment.
“Sadly, this person continues her destructive pattern of behavior by making more false allegations and filing a fraudulent claim,” he wrote.
Reardon did not acknowledge emailed questions about his apparent move away from Snohomish County, nor did he address evidence of his staff harassing his political enemies.
Dutton’s claim names Reardon as a witness to her alleged mistreatment. Other witnesses she lists include: Kevin Hulten, the former Reardon aide documented in most of the dirty tricks targeting his boss’ rivals; former Deputy Executive Gary Haakenson; county attorneys; and human services employees who worked with Dutton.
Also named is County Councilman Dave Somers, whom Dutton approached confidentially in October 2011 to report fears that she was being harassed because Reardon was then seeking his third term as county executive. Dutton’s name and the affair with Reardon became public before the November 2011 election, which Reardon went on to win.
Dutton’s complaint resulted in the patrol investigation into whether Reardon had spent public money on her during county business trips to places such as Chicago and Washington, D.C.
State detectives found insufficient evidence for the Island County prosecutor to charge Reardon with a crime. However, the information that surfaced about Reardon’s messy personal and political life proved damaging.
The state Public Disclosure Commission continues to investigate evidence that Reardon used staff and other county resources to support his political campaigns. Hulten also is the target of an investigation into campaign monkey business.
Reardon stepped down from his job at the end of May 2013, following revelations about Hulten engaging in clandestine efforts to harass his political enemies. Reardon has claimed ignorance of the activity. A King County Sheriff’s detective, at the request of Snohomish County leaders, continues to investigate whether any laws were broken.
Dutton is represented by attorney Robin Williams Phillips of Seattle.
“It is a shame that Ms. Dutton has to go through this,” Phillips said. “I think she’s gone through enough.”
In a letter accompanying the damage claim, Phillips said the affair between Dutton and Reardon began in 2005 and lasted until 2011. The two had known each other since attending Mariner High School in south Everett.
“As (Reardon’s) political foes began to threaten to expose the affair, Mr. Reardon, in turn, began to threaten Ms. Dutton,” the letter says. “He repeatedly told her he would ‘send her to Antarctica’ if she ever opened her mouth about the affair. Also, he told her she was being watched.”
During the fall of 2011, Reardon waged a scorched-earth political campaign against state Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens. As the antics on both sides grew more vicious, Dutton said she feared that her relationship with Reardon would become an election issue.
“Ms. Dutton began to fear for her safety and that of her family because people began following her and she started receiving cryptic emails at work,” her attorney wrote, in a letter accompanying the damage claim.
Dutton also claims that her county co-workers “began treating her differently and some would not even speak to her.”
When her name became public days before the 2011 election “work became a living hell for Ms. Dutton,” the attorney’s letter says.
The claim makes no reference to Dutton having granted journalists interviews about the affair, including broadcasts on two Seattle television stations.
After Reardon won re-election, Dutton claims the executive and other county employees publicly embarrassed her with what she says were humiliating efforts to avoid contact on the county campus, such as refusing to board the same elevator with her. She said her car repeatedly was vandalized in the county parking garage. She also claims Hulten used county computers to harass her and that co-workers ostracized her.
Dutton says workplace discrimination worsened in May 2013, around the time of Reardon’s resignation. Dutton says she was treated unfairly during a domestic violence arrest that same month, and she blames her notoriety. No charges were filed.
She also complains of being sent home for work in September to change an outfit deemed inappropriate by supervisors, even though she had worn it to work numerous times before.
Dutton, 43, has been on administrative leave since September from her job as a case worker in the county’s Human Services Department, her claim states. She began working for the county in the late 1990s as a correctional officer at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center.
This isn’t the first time Dutton has pursued legal action against Snohomish County.
In 2004, she and two female co-workers from Denney sued the county over what they described as a pattern of sexual harassment at work. An investigation by the county turned up substantial evidence in support of their claims. The three women later split a $500,000 settlement.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, firstname.lastname@example.org.