EVERETT — The origin of ethics complaints against a candidate for Snohomish County executive remained murky on Wednesday.
An attorney vouched for the existence of the Seattle man who claims to have filed the complaints. Meanwhile, one of County Executive Aaron Reardon’s staff, accused of hav
ing actually brought the complaints, balked at being interviewed.
The issue this week became a flash point between Reardon, the Democratic incumbent, and Republican state Rep. Mike Hope. The pair are facing off in the Nov. 8 election.
Hope is a Seattle police officer. The complaints questioned Hope’s appearance in uniform in campaign materials.
This month, the state Public Disclosure Commission dismissed one of the complaints outright. A Seattle police internal investigation ended with Hope being recommended for nothing more than a meeting with his supervisor to review policies.
A Granite Falls address used by whomever brought the state complaint is the home of a Reardon staffer. If the complaints were brought using county resources, that would be a potential violation of state campaign law, Hope said.
Reardon said the employee Hope is accusing, Kevin Hulten, has nothing to do with his campaign or the complaints.
The complaints were filed by a man named John Chambers. On Wednesday, a Seattle lawyer said he represents Chambers and emailed a message declaring that his client is real.
“Respecting my client’s privacy, I will provide no contact information for Mr. Chambers,” attorney Adam Matherly wrote. “I can however verify that his full name as reported on his Washington state drivers license is John Allen Chambers and that he is a resident of the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle.”
Public records also show a man in his mid-20s by that name who has lived in Seattle and Edmonds. An email associated with Chambers appears in an online classified ad offering tutoring services, in which the tutor describes himself as a recent University of Washington political science graduate.
Attempts to call, text and email Chambers led to an email declining an interview, but calling attention to the lawyer’s statement.
Hope said whether Chambers exists is irrelevant to him. He insists the evidence points to Reardon’s office. The key, he said, is the Granite Falls address where Hulten lives. It appears in correspondence with the Public Disclosure Commission, although the state says their letter sent there came back unopened. The complaint also features an old phone number used by Hulten.
Hulten works on constituent and governmental services for Reardon. He also has been a legislative aide for state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, and an editor for the weekly Lake Stevens Journal.
“The evidence leads to Kevin Hulten, and it’s time for somebody to do an investigation for the first time in his life, and his name’s Aaron Reardon,” Hope said.
The conflict resulted in a testy exchange between the candidates at a Wednesday editorial board meeting at The Herald. Reardon accused Hope and his political backers of making repeated calls to Hulten for several months, pumping him for information and telling him he’d have a job if Hope wins the election.
“It’s a lot like you’ve been grooming this young man,” Reardon said.
Later, the executive told Hope, “If you want to go after my 31-year-old aide, you’re running for the wrong position.”
“Now, take your best shot at me,” he finished.
Hope said the current flap is similar to other management slip-ups in Reardon’s administration.
“Quit taking people for their word and start investigating, Aaron,” he said.
Hulten posted around 2 a.m. Wednesday to The Herald’s website messages claiming that he was the victim of a smear campaign and shoddy reporting.
On Tuesday he ignored phone and email messages seeking his comment about the story before publication. Earlier in the day, Reardon said he had spoken with him about Hope’s accusations.
On Wednesday, Hulten refused to make himself available for on-the-record interviews.
Late in the day, Hulten sent an email denying being part of any campaign, stating, “Mike Hope accused me of something I did not do.”
He said his bosses didn’t want him talking to The Herald. Both Reardon and Gary Haakenson, the deputy executive, told a reporter Hulten had been cleared to answer the newspaper’s questions.
Hulten knows Hope from his time as an aide in the same legislative district. He’s also been a long-time friend of Hope’s campaign treasurer, Blair Anderson.
Washington State Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur on Wednesday called for investigations to be conducted by the state Attorney General and prosecutors from both Snohomish and King counties.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; email@example.com.