In 2013, then-Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon—and one-time golden boy of the Washington State Democrat Party—stepped down after narrowly escaping criminal prosecution associated with a high-profile sex scandal. Since then, Reardon appears to have permanently retired any hope of a political career. As the Everett Herald recently put it, Reardon left others to “clean up after him” while he “picked up stakes and moved to California.”
Reardon had no problem shutting the door on his political career. The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), charged with investigating Reardon’s improper use of taxpayer dollars to pay for his affair, seems less capable of wrapping-up the disgraced Democrat’s case. It is now the oldest open investigation on the PDC’s docket. According the Everett Herald, given that there is a five-year statute of limitations, the PDC may not ever complete its investigation into Reardon’s case. The Everett Herald reports,
“State officials say they are working the Reardon case — and one they launched on his former aide, Kevin Hulten — but have been hampered by limited resources, an avalanche of other cases and the volume of evidence.
“It’s a complicated case and we lost some staff about the time those complaints were coming in,” commission spokeswoman Lori Anderson said last week. “We’re trying to keep up with the complaints that are coming in, we’re trying to keep up with the investigations that are underway.”
The Everett Herald goes on to point out that “good-government advocates worry that the delay, in this instance and others, could erode the public’s trust in the election process.” Anne Levinson, a recently appointed member of the PDC, rather unhelpfully commented, “It does not serve anyone well when a complaint is resolved many years after a violation is alleged.” Levinson also made the excuse that Reardon’s re-location has “added difficulty to the process.”
Here are the details of the extremely corrupt behavior Reardon and his aide, Hulten, have been caught in:
“Some of the biggest problems for Reardon are found in billings for the county-issued cellphone he carried while in office. A 2012 analysis by The Herald found the former county executive using the government phone to call and exchange text messages hundreds of times with key campaign staff and contractors who worked on his re-election effort. He also spent the equivalent of a workweek dialing up potential campaign donors when his schedule showed him holding a series of “in-office” meetings with staff.
“It is against state law and county code for candidates to use any public resources in an election.
“Records show Hulten, meanwhile, began targeting Reardon’s political rivals almost as soon as he started his county job in January 2011. Although he attempted to hide his tracks by destroying records, forensic analysis of county computers found digital evidence that, while on county time, Hulten built Reardon’s campaign website and publicized embarrassing records he dug up regarding Hope.
“Hulten also worked closely with an Olympia attorney to file a Public Disclosure Commission complaint against Hope. That strategy backfired. State election watchdogs in April 2013 began investigating Hulten after The Herald published evidence showing he’d called the commission during work hours, claiming to be somebody else and complaining about Hope.
“Reardon and Hulten have both denied engaging in any proscribed political activity. A document recovered from the computer in Hulten’s former county office, however, detailed his disappointment with Reardon for not rewarding what he called “black hat jobs.” Among the actions Hulten felt deserved more recognition were building Reardon’s campaign website and digging up materials used in political ads that targeted Hope.
“Hulten last year spent a week on a work crew after pleading guilty to evidence tampering for scrubbing data from a county laptop.”
Given the extent of corruption, it is crucial the PDC complete its investigation into Reardon’s case. Former state auditor Brian Sonntag recently stated that the important that the PDC resolve any investigation “regardless of whether the persons involved remain in office.” The PDC’s role is to protect good government; a conclusion to the Reardon investigation is crucial for the purpose.