Snohomish County officials are preparing for a change in leadership. Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon says he’ll resign at the end of May. Reardon announced his pending resignation at a 7:00 a.m. meeting at the Everett Golf and Country Club Thursday.
Not many Snohomish County officials were in the room. But news of his speech quickly spread. Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe said he, for one, is relieved. “This has been kind of a pain in the rear. A lot of us are just tired of it,” Roe said. “And I’m hoping that this will bring this chapter, of having to open your morning newspaper every day with shaking hands, to a close.”
Reardon’s problems began shortly before his reelection in 2011. A county employee said she and Reardon had an affair on county time. An investigation concluded that evidence was insufficient to charge the Snohomish County executive. But the scandal continued with recent revelations in the Everett Herald. The paper revealed that Reardon’s employees used fake names to request massive amounts of email and phone logs. They sought the documents from officials who helped investigate Reardon’s actions.
Roe is looking for law enforcement outside Snohomish County to investigate these public records requests. Filing a document request under a false name is not illegal, but Roe said these requests could meet the standard for cyberstalking. “The questions will be,” he said, “was it done to annoy, harass, intimidate? Was it done repeatedly and anonymously?”
Roe’s office was a target of the records request. He said the requests have consumed time in his office when resources are scarce. He’s had to dedicate one civil prosecutor to collecting, and redacting, the requested documents. Roe has a handwritten note on his own desk reminding him not to delete any emails within certain dates until the requests are satisfied.
Despite the Everett Herald’s revelations and Reardon’s plans to resign, the document requests still stand and the investigation is going forward. Reardon echoed the call for an independent investigation in his remarks.
In his announcement, Reardon said he’s faced constant efforts to undermine him and “enough is enough.”
“It is impossible for me to describe to you the emotional and financial toll these relentless attacks have taken on my wife, my family and me," said Reardon. "My wife and I have been required to spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees in order to defend against these false and scurrilous accusations.”
Snohomish County Councilmember Dave Somers has called on Reardon to take a leave of absence during the earlier investigation. He also supported the council’s decision Wednesday to remove certain offices from Reardon’s control until the next investigation is completed. He responded that Reardon has himself to blame for these problems. “Nobody outside his office created this situation. His office created this situation. So I don’t think he’s a victim,” Somers said.
In downtown Everett, many people seemed unaware of Reardon’s news, but Shelly Likkel of Edmonds said she'd been reading the headlines. She said the first investigation left the impression in many people’s minds that Reardon was not honest.
She said his departure was a contrast with his arrival on the political scene as an ambitious and charismatic young Democrat. Likkel described Reardon as “an up-and-comer, really great credentials, almost like a golden boy.”
Jim Fetzer was another passerby. He said the timing of Reardon’s announcement was a surprise but it was clear Reardon had been under a cloud for awhile. “He’s been inundated with these problems so I think it’s probably best that he does step down,” Fetzer said.
Fetzer spoke near the county administration building named after Reardon’s predecessor, Bob Drewel. Fetzer said Reardon’s saga has made him nostalgic for the days when the highly respected Drewel ran Snohomish County.
The local Democratic party will choose Reardon’s interim replacement. They’ll forward three names to the Snohomish County Council and the council will pick one. Voters will decide on a permanent replacement in 2014.