GRANITE FALLS, Wash. -- “I know I have a story to tell,” Kevin Hulten said on the porch of his home here Tuesday morning. “I haven’t done anything inappropriate.”
That’s Hulten’s take on his involvement in a series of events that led to the sudden resignation last month of his boss, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon.
But others in county government have claimed that Hulten’s actions were not only inappropriate -– they were harassment.
“I was doing all this on my own time,” said Hulten in an interview with KING 5 -– his first since Reardon announced his resignation in the wake of reports that that Hulten and co-worker Jon Rudicil launched a campaign last year to harass perceived Reardon enemies with public disclosure requests and attack websites.
Hulten, Reardon’s legislative aide and a close confidant, insisted that he was not trying to harass or attack anyone. He said he was investigating county officials and others that he believed were undermining Reardon.
To do that, Hulten admitted filing five expansive public records requests -– under an assumed name -– seeking thousands of pages of information on people like county Councilmember Dave Somers and Prosecutor Mark Roe.
“When you’re making such a broad request of so many people at the same time, it sure does feel like harassment, doesn’t it,” Roe told KING 5 on February 15. That interview took place shortly after the The Herald in Everett reported on Hulten's and Rudicil's activities.
When it came to light that two of Reardon’s closest aides were behind the effort, the embattled executive announced that he would resign, effective May 31.
What was Hulten after?
Hulten said he was working on his own time and initiative, not Reardon’s, when he made the records requests for “research” purposes.
Hulten said he uncovered what he considers troubling information about a prosecutor in the department’s civil division who is supposed to represent Reardon’s legal interests.
Hulten provided documents to KING 5 that he said he received through his public records requests that show the call log of Deputy Prosecutor Jason Cummings. The spreadsheet shows that Cummings called reporters from The Herald and The Seattle Times more than 150 times during the eight-month period ending in July 2012.
“How is it possible that the very lawyers who brought forward criminal charges against Reardon continued to represent his office during the investigation they prompted?” asked Hulten.
It was the prosecutor’s office that referred claims that Reardon spent county money on a mistress to the Washington State Patrol. That investigation resulted in no charges, although Reardon did not deny the affair.
Hulten said he believes the conduct of other county officials should be investigated. That’s why he filed a whistleblower complaint with the State Auditor’s Office.
Hulten told KING 5 Tuesday morning that he would not speak in more detail about these issues because he wanted to preserve the Auditor’s investigation and one that’s been launched by the King County Sheriff’s Office. (King County is taking the lead to avoid conflicts of interest among Snohomish County law enforcement.)
“I still have faith in the processes of local government and the State,” said Hulten.
Much of Hulten’s ire is aimed at the prosecutor’s office.
The elected prosecutor, Mark Roe, said the records compiled by Hulten are not evidence of some conspiracy with the media.
“We have a record of talking to the media,” Roe told KING 5.
Roe said Cummings is a “point-of-contact” for media calls and he routinely speaks with reporters about many county issues.
“We are returning calls to the media every day of the week,” said Roe.
Standing by his boss
Last week, the county placed Hulten and Rudicil on administrative leave pending the outcome of the King County Sheriff’s investigation.
Hulten said he believes his leave was instigated by the county council, not Reardon.
“Aaron has always been good to me,” said Hulten.
Both Reardon and Hulten have issued statements saying that Hulten did not act at Reardon’s direction.
However, Hulten refused to answer specific questions about what he told Reardon about his activities and when.
Like his boss, Hulten expects to be looking for a new job come May.