The Daily Herald and three members of its news staff have been honored with Key Awards by the Washington Coalition for Open Government for reporting that led to the resignation of Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon in 2013.
The long-running coverage was the work of reporters Scott North and Noah Haglund and City Editor Robert Frank. The awards, presented Sept. 5 in the Herald newsroom, recognize individuals or organizations that have made notable contributions to open government.
The Herald’s reporting “demonstrates the power and the necessity of open access to public records,” said WCOG President Toby Nixon. “The newspaper overcame a number of significant obstacles to get at the truth.”
The Herald team revealed how two key Reardon aides used fictitious identities and created fake companies and online personas to attack political opponents. Among other things, the aides orchestrated a campaign to bombard public officials with records requests while hiding their official positions with the Reardon administration.
Reardon resigned several days after the Herald revealed the aides’ activities. One of the aides, Kevin Hulten, was sentenced in July in Skagit County for tampering with evidence in a criminal investigation related to the scandal.
After Reardon’s depature, The Herald continued pushing for county phone and computer records that Hulten had hidden or attempted to destroy. It ultimately received 40 gigabytes of previously undisclosed computer files.
“This kind of journalism is the most important work we do,” said Neal Pattison, Herald executive editor. “When public officeholders abuse their position and their powers, someone needs to hold them accountable.”
WCOG (www.washingtoncog.org) was founded in 2002 by a group of individuals representing organizations dedicated to the principles of strengthening the state’s open government laws and protecting the public’s access to government at all levels. WCOG membership is open to the public.