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Originally published February 14, 2012 at 9:27 PM | Page modified February 15, 2012 at 9:53 AM

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Documents bolster claim of Reardon misconduct

A woman who says she had a six-year affair with Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon has provided details that show how he used his position and his official business trips to carry out their relationship.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A woman who says she had a six-year affair with Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon has provided details that show how he used his position and his official business trips to carry out their relationship.

Tamara Dutton, a county social worker with no professional reason to go on trips with Reardon, has plane tickets, telephone records, Facebook and text messages and other documents that show how their affair happened largely during the workday and on business trips across the country.

Detectives with the Washington State Patrol, which is investigating whether Reardon misused county funds, have no doubt that Dutton and Reardon had an affair, according to a law-enforcement source close to the investigation.

But the county's travel records are in such disarray — with incomplete or even missing documentation — that detectives' work has been hampered, the source said.

Reardon has refused to comment, saying through a spokesman he won't make any statement until the investigation is complete. He has hired an attorney and denied criminal wrongdoing.

In interviews with The Times, Dutton described how the two would travel separately before staying together at hotels during trips that included Chicago and Washington, D.C. She said she bought her plane tickets and took vacation time from work.

Headache excuse

During both those trips, she said, the executive rarely left her side. In Chicago, he skipped a Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) conference by faking a headache, Dutton said, then hopped in a taxi to go have dinner and drinks.

"I believe she's being truthful, and everyone who's dealt with her believes she's being truthful," the source said of Dutton.

Among the details Dutton has provided are phone records that confirm she spent hours talking with Reardon during the workday.

Dutton said the two also met locally on weekdays, at hotels, Reardon's office, a Reardon friend's apartment in Seattle, or her house.

The investigation has tarnished Reardon's image as a rising star among state Democrats.

Reardon, 41, who was elected to the state House at 27, champions himself as a driven, direct fiscal conservative and a family man. He won a third term as county executive in November.

The State Patrol investigation of Reardon began after Dutton told a County Council member in October about the trips she took with Reardon, who is married and has two children.

According to the source, the State Patrol's investigation since has broadened into whether Reardon and his staff campaigned from his office during the workday, which is illegal.

The source said the State Patrol also is looking into whether the county has effectively archived emails.

If proof of misuse of public money is found, it could lead to felony charges, the source said.

But county record keeping is so bad that the State Auditor's Office said it is having a difficult time with an overall audit of Snohomish County travel records that it expects to wrap up soon.

"We found the records to be in disarray," Auditor's Office spokeswoman Mindy Chambers said.

Reardon's trips have raised questions for years among Snohomish County Council members.

"At the council, we hear he's traveling and we have no idea what it's about," Councilmember Dave Somers said. "It's a mystery to us."

Reardon rarely reports back after a trip to show what he'd been doing or how it benefited the county, council members said.

His opponent in November's election, state Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, alleged throughout the campaign that Reardon's travel was out of control and that county records were sloppy.

Dutton went to Somers in October and told him about her trips with Reardon. Somers told the Snohomish County prosecuting attorney, who turned the case over to the State Patrol.

News of the investigation broke days before the election.

Tapped for potential

The DLC selected Reardon as one of 23 promising young elected Democrats from across the country and included him in a two-year fellowship to develop a "core group of exceptional young leaders, likely to rise to the top of progressive politics in coming years."

The group flew him to a conference in Chicago in September 2010. Reardon checked in briefly with conference officials then spent the rest of the trip with Dutton, she said.

They visited monuments, parks and some piano bars, she said, but most of the trip they spent in their hotel room.

The taxi receipts Reardon turned in to the county show he had another passenger, and Dutton has the plane ticket showing she traveled the same days, and photos of the hotel.

She showed Facebook messages to The Times about the trip that the two exchanged before their flights. During the trip, Reardon paid Dutton's expenses, including food and entertainment, she said.

The DLC paid for all but $82.80 of the trip's cost.

Dutton said she got a "free tour of D.C." when she accompanied Reardon in January 2007 when he said he was on a lobbying trip. Snohomish County paid for Reardon's $327 plane ticket, a $66 parking bill, $261 in incidentals and $311 for a stay one of those nights at the boutique Hotel Rouge. The county also paid for a bar charge and $58 room-service bill.

"The only time he left me was to go out in the hallway to make a phone call," Dutton said.

A handwritten note on the county's credit-card statement says a $50.60 charge to the hotel's honor bar mistakenly was charged to the county's card.

Reardon's secretary called the hotel and had the charge — which investigators have learned was for an "intimacy kit" — removed and charged to Reardon's personal card. The Hotel Rouge says it offers an intimacy kit that includes condoms and lubricant.

Even when Dutton didn't join him, Reardon's travel records show little about what he was doing.

After another trip to Washington, D.C., in March 2010, Reardon wrote on his expense forms that the $1,604.38 trip was for "meetings with federal delegates." He stayed three nights in a king deluxe suite at a Capitol Hill boutique hotel and collected $177.50 from the county to cover food and expenses.

Somers and Councilmember Dave Gossett also were in the capital that week for meetings with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, but none of those offices have a record of a meeting with Reardon. Neither Somers nor Gossett remembers seeing Reardon at the meetings.

According to Reardon's phone records, he did speak twice on the phone with the offices of the county's lobbyist at McBee Consulting, and spoke several times with a former employee in his office who was living in D.C. at the time.

Campaign questions

The State Patrol is interviewing some of Reardon's employees about their roles in his campaign last fall.

In particular, they want to know about an employee who requested records from the Mill Creek Police Department about a traffic stop involving his opponent, Hope. The employee requested the records using a different first name.

Reardon's phone records also show campaign work on his county cellphone; he spent more than two hours talking to his Tennessee-based campaign consultant in the months leading up to the election.

The Times reviewed Reardon's phone records and compared them to Dutton's personal cellphone records, which she provided. They showed Reardon and Dutton didn't speak on the phone every day, but sometimes would talk a lot until the affair ended last year.

On one weekday in July, they spent almost 2 ½ hours on the phone, starting at 1:40 p.m. Reardon's cellphone plan is not unlimited, so the county was charged by the minute for those calls: $36 that day. Some of that was reimbursed by the county's shared-minutes plan.

During the week of May 9, they spoke or left messages seven times, including one 72-minute phone call that Friday.

"We talked for hours on the phone all the time about anything and everything," Dutton said.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246

or eheffter@seattletimes.com

On Twitter @EmilyHeffter

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