As Reardon’s top manager, Mark Soine ‘held his cards close’

Snohomish County Deputy Executive Mark Soine, whose frequent refusal to answer their questions often rankled county councilmen and other elected officials, on Monday resigned from his job.

In a letter sent to Executive Aaron Reardon on Monday, Soine said “the time has come for me to move on” from his job as second in command of the county.

“It is time for me to refocus and redirect my energies and devote time to family obligations,” Soine wrote.

The resignation is effective June 3.

Reardon hired Soine in 2005. He previously worked as a city attorney for Everett.

Soine was a tough negotiator who always represented Reardon’s interests and “held his cards pretty close” County Councilman John Koster said.

Soine in February publicly took the blame after an independent review found shoddy record-keeping at the county’s equal employment opportunity office. The county employee Soine supervised resigned.

Last week, the Department of Information Services, which Soine had supervised until early this year, became the focus of a sharply critical audit that found what the auditors described as an unusual lack of communication between the department’s managers and their customers in county government offices.

The county’s other elected officials had become so disenchanted with the quality of county computer services for their departments that they spent $50,000 on a study to get to the bottom of the problem.

The report blamed much of the difficulty on communication between people, not machines.

Soine’s tight-lipped ways triggered a major spat in 2007 after he refused to discuss the county executive’s plans for celebrating The Boeing Co.’s rollout of the 787 Dreamliner. The council responded by temporarily placing limits on Reardon’s ability to authorize spending.

That same year, a state examiner ruled that Soine, acting as the county executive’s chief labor negotiator, had illegally delayed efforts to settle a contract with Superior Court clerks, and retaliated against them for forming their own guild.

The ruling ended a two-year contract impasse by granting arbitration rights to the Snohomish County Clerks’ Association.

More recently, Soine also played an important role in deciding how the county addressed allegations surrounding Craig Ladiser, the county’s former planning director.

Soine oversaw the employee who allegedly bungled investigations of sexual harassment complaints in Ladiser’s department. Soine also spoke with the woman lobbyist who accused Ladiser of sexually assaulting her while drunk at a June 24 building industry golf tournament, records show.

After interviewing the woman July 9, Soine asked that a special prosecutor be hired to investigate. The result was a $12,500 report that called into question key aspects of the victim’s story before she had even reported the incident to police.

Ladiser later tried to use the county’s report in an attempt to discount the woman’s claim that she had been assaulted.

King County prosecutors in January charged Ladiser with indecent exposure and fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation. The case has yet to go to trial.

Soine’s impending resignation last week was the subject of considerable speculation and rumor.

Reardon and his spokesman, Christopher Schwarzen, ignored repeated inquires by The Herald on Friday to clarify Soine’s employment status.

Instead, Reardon’s executive assistant, Nancy Peinecke, laughed at a reporter’s question of whether Soine had left his job.

Peinecke said he was merely on vacation. She also said she’d tell Reardon and Schwarzen about the newspaper’s questions.

This isn’t the first time Reardon’s office has obscured the circumstances regarding a top manager’s continued employment.

In July, Ladiser’s absence led to questions.

People in county government suggested he was in treatment for substance abuse problems. In answer to a reporter’s questions, Reardon’s office forwarded an e-mail sent from Ladiser to planning department staff, suggesting he was out of the office dealing with a “family emergency.”

In reality, Ladiser had already been placed on administrative leave and was the subject of a county investigation into his alleged misconduct on the golf course. He’d also entered treatment for alcohol abuse.

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