Snohomish Co. exec's staffer engineered records request ruse

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) - A member of Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon's staff was behind public records requests targeting Reardon's political enemies, a statement from Reardon indicated.

The statement released Thursday night said legislative analyst Kevin Hulten apologized to Reardon for any distraction or embarrassment caused by an article in The Daily Herald. The story in the paper Thursday said the requests for emails, phone logs and other records targeted nearly 20 county employees and a private citizen seeking Reardon's recall.

Reardon's statement said Hulten's actions were his own and not at Reardon's direction.

Snohomish County Council members are still seeking an explanation from Reardon, The Daily Herald reported Friday.

A phone message seeking comment from Reardon and Hulten for this story was left Friday at Reardon's office and spokesman Christopher Schwarzen called back to say he was working on a response.

Aliases and various identities were created for records requests, The Daily Herald reported in Thursday's story. Anonymous Web pages, fake Twitter accounts and spoof email addresses were used to undermine Reardon critics. Couriers with money orders picked up records, so the person behind the request never had to show his face.

The record requests began during Reardon's re-election campaign in 2011 and appeared to be an attempt to dig up dirt on opponent Mike Hope. Reardon won a third term.

The campaign continued during a Washington State Patrol investigation into accusations that Reardon used country resources on his campaign and an affair. He was not charged.

In his statement, Reardon said he met with Hulten and Jon Rudicil, Reardon's staff assistant.

"Mr. Hulten apologized to me for any distraction and embarrassment caused by the article which ran in the Everett Herald suggesting that his outside and personal activities occurred at my direction. He informed me that his actions are private and did not interfere with his official responsibilities at the county. His motivations were his own. Any suggestion to the contrary is untrue. All county staff members have the same rights as any other citizen to request and review public documents - and they frequently do. The requests referenced in today's media account are for documents that are routinely requested of public officials by members of the public and/or the media," the statement said.