Embattled Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon announced this morning he is stepping down, a spokesman said.
He made the surprise announcement during his annual “state of the county” address at the Everett Golf and Country Club. The Democrat’s resignation goes into effect on May 31.
Reardon said mounting accusations against him, including that he used county resources and time to campaign for re-election and had been involved in an extra-marital affair, were taking a toll on his family. Reardon said this morning he wants to see an independent investigation into the allegations.
“These allegations are a continuation of efforts by groups who oppose me and who rely upon false allegations in order to discredit me and undermine my ability to discharge my duties as your Snohomish County executive,” Reardon said. “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. My wife and I have been required to spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees in order to defend against false and scurrilous allegations.”
Click here to read the full text of Reardon’s resignation remarks.
Reardon, 42, a Democrat, has held elected office since he was 28. An Everett native, he won his first term in the state House in 1998. He moved on to the Senate, and was elected Snohomish County executive in 2003.
Reardon was elected to his third term as county executive in November 2011, when he defeated state Rep. Mike Hope after a heated and often personal campaign. Both candidates flung accusations about corruption at each other in debates, fliers and television ads.
In order to replace Reardon, Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel said the county’s Democratic party will recommend three possible replacements to the Snohomish County Council. The council will select one to act as county executive until a special election is held in fall 2014.
Reardon’s announcement comes a day after the Snohomish County Council took emergency action to withdraw Reardon’s control of the county’s Department of Information Services in response to allegations that his staff is targeting county employees who cooperated with an investigation into Reardon last year by the State Patrol.
Kevin Hulten, a Reardon staffer, used a fake name when he requested extensive public records on the whistle-blower in the case and several others, including county prosecutors who turned the case over to the State Patrol, the county auditor, two County Council members and their aides, and others who spoke with state patrol investigators.
The council and Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe are seeking an outside, criminal investigation about the records requests, according to the council. The records requests were detailed in recent stories in The Herald newspaper in Everett.
“It is incumbent on the council to ensure that all county records are appropriately maintained and kept available for investigative and legal purposes,” the council said in a statement.
Reardon released a statement Wednesday that said it was legal for Hulten to request the records. The executive criticized the council’s action and questioned whether the council was trying to hide public records by taking away control of the department.
Reardon’s statement said, in part: “This action was taken without public notice or comment, without notification to employees within the department and with no analysis or discussion by the County Council. … The highly unusual step taken today creates a distraction from county business while raising serious questions about council’s intentions and the content of the records they question the need to release.”
No charges were filed in the State Patrol’s six-month investigation of Reardon, which wrapped up last year. But the investigation revealed that Reardon had an affair with a county employee and may have used county resources and time to campaign for re-election.
At one point, the council called for Reardon to step down. He released a 30-second video statement, refusing.
Aaron Reardon’s statement last year:
Reacting to Reardon’s resignation this morning, Roe, the prosecuting attorney, said he was relieved.
“Hopefully we can put all of this behind us,” Roe said. “It has definitely been a cloud over the county. I just hope this decision is the end of it and we can move on.”
Others in Everett didn’t seemed surprised at the announcement
“It was probably an inevitable thing,” said Bob Miller, an attorney in Everett. “It sounds like there were a lot of things going on that he was going to get called to the carpet for. He either had to answer to the council or fall on his sword.”