13 missteps by Aaron Reardon

Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon turned political heads for winning elections, keeping budgets balanced and talking jobs, jobs, jobs. He also made a series of missteps during his decade in county government, along a path that led to last week’s announcement he will resign May 31.

1. January 2004 — Sworn into office as the youngest county executive in the nation, Reardon in short order angered his new colleagues by claiming to have inherited a fiscal mess. Other elected officials insisted that wasn’t true and said he was grandstanding.

2. July 2005 — He hired attorney Mark Soine as deputy executive. Soine’s working style, including a habit of hoarding information, fueled animus toward Reardon.

3. April 2006 — The County Council stripped Reardon of authority to sign contracts above $5,000 after Soine repeatedly refused to discuss county costs for a party planned to mark the Boeing 787 rollout. Meanwhile, Reardon got sideways with the county clerks union, which accused him of illegally delaying contract negotiations. A state labor panel agreed.

4. January 2007 — Reardon engaged in an extramarital affair with Tamara Dutton, a county social worker. He put charges for a hotel room “intimacy kit” on his county credit card. Although he paid the bill himself and his staff kept quiet, the records would surface later.

5. June 2008 — The executive and council found a way to work together. Progress was so good the council voted 5-0 to restore Reardon’s authority to sign checks of up to $50,000.

6. March 2009 — Financial strain linked to the recession helped rekindle discord between the council and executive. County employees faced layoffs. Elected leaders complained they couldn’t rely on Reardon’s office for straight answers about the dollars and cents.

7. June 2009 — When the county’s planning director got drunk and committed a sexually motivated assault on a woman at a building-industry golf tournament, Reardon’s office offered misleading explanations for the man’s sudden disappearance. When the truth came out and Craig Ladiser was fired, suspicions mounted about an attempted coverup. Within a year, records surfaced to show the concerns were founded.

8. February 2010Soine resigned amid scandal after a consultant found a pattern of sloppy investigations into workplace harassment complaints. Other records surfaced that showed he had ordered county staff to investigate a county councilman who had made statements Reardon didn’t like.

9. November 2011 — A contentious election turned ugly when Reardon’s opponent alleged the executive had junior staffer Kevin Hulten digging for dirt. Reardon’s affair with Dutton became the focus of a Washington State Patrol investigation to determine whether public funds were misused. Instead of coming clean, Reardon denied wrongdoing and dropped from sight. He won re-election amidst a cloud.

10. February 2012 — Concerned about records indicating Reardon campaigned using public resources, as well as proof of his affair, the County Council urged him to go on leave. Reardon refused. Hulten went on offense, launching formal complaints about patrol detectives. Detectives and witnesses in the case also were attacked online.

11. June 2012 — No criminal charges were brought. Reardon’s attorney declared his client had been “exonerated.” Reardon kept quiet.

12. August 2012 — Somebody calling himself “Edmond Thomas” began seeking public records about county employees and officials who were witnesses in the Reardon investigation. Another entity, “Lain Coubert,” took aim at a blogger from Gold Bar who was trying to recall Reardon.

13. February 2013Reardon ignored requests by The Herald to discuss evidence linking Hulten and another member of his staff to harassment and surveillance. He later condoned the conduct, reasoning it was OK because he was told it happened outside work. Reardon resigned amid calls for a criminal investigation.

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