Aaron Reardon, Mike Hope, and the Case of the Phantom Complaint Filer

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Using a fake name to talk crap about someone is the preferred method of 15-year-old high-school girls.

So one might think that Washington state politicians and their supporters would be above such adolescent antics. But in the case of the race for Snohomish County Executive between incumbent Aaron Reardon and challenger Mike Hope, that assumption appears to be dead wrong.

At least two dismissed ethical complaints filed against state Rep. Mike Hope (R-Lake Stevens) with Washington's Public Disclosure Commission and Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability were likely made by a person using a fake or forged name and information.

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Questions were raised about Mike Hope using his SPD uniform in campaign ads. But who asked those questions?
Normally, this would barely be news on a slow day. But in this case, information provided by this likely fake person indicates that he may be a taxpayer-funded employee of Reardon's executive office.

Let's start at the beginning.

In the last several months, multiple ethics complaints have been made against Hope concerning his use of an SPD uniform in campaign literature and about a group he started called 100 Ideas and whether it is in fact just a campaign front.

All but one of these complaints have been dismissed, with the last one currently in the hands of SPD Chief John Diaz for possible minor discipline (SPD's Office of Professional Accountability has recommended that Hope's boss have a talking-to with him about using the use of his uni).

Anyhow, yesterday we got word that the address and phone number used on at least two of those complaints are those of Kevin Hulten, an executive analyst for Reardon.

Records from the Snohomish County Assessor, as well as the home's owner (Hulten's aunt) and Reardon himself, all concur that the address is Hulten's.

The name used on those complaints, however, is not Kevin Hulten. It's "John Chambers."

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Aaron Reardon has denied having any part in the filing of complaints against Hope.
Now, if Hulten did in fact make the complaints either during his hours at work or under orders from Reardon, it would be a violation of Washington's election laws, which require that no public employee use state resources for political purposes.

If Hulten didn't make the complaints (and he claims he didn't), it raises the question of how and why some random person got his name and phone number and decided to make ethical complaints against his boss' political opponent under Hulten's address.

Hope, of course, is happy to provide plenty of reasons.

"Obviously his campaign is getting desperate," Hope says. "It is too bad Aaron Reardon's team didn't hire this political hitman to help investigate those EEO complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination like he did my personnel file."

Reardon, meanwhile, says he has no idea who any "John Chambers" is, and that after being contacted by Seattle Weekly he spoke with Hulten, who denied making any complaints or knowing this Chambers person.

"I sat him down and asked him if he filed the complaints," Reardon says. "He said 'No.' I believe him."

Hulten himself didn't return numerous phone calls seeking comment.

That leaves us with John Chambers.

A "John Chambers" has sent numerous e-mails to us over the last few months alleging a variety of ethical lapses by Hope. Some were worth looking into. Most weren't.

So we reached out to Mr. Chambers to find out if he's a real person.

First "Chambers" said that he never used the Granite Falls address listed on the PDC documents. Then when e-mailed a copy of the document which shows otherwise, he responded with:

"that is not my address. the address i provided is on the original complaint. i never received the letter u attached. i am going to speak to an attorney after work and have him send you a statement in the morning, verifying my information. i have no comment or knowledge of any of this. thank you."

Shortly after sending that message, "Chambers'" e-mail address was disabled.

The PDC had trouble getting hold of Chambers as well.

A representative from the PDC told us that a certified letter was sent to an address on Roy Street in Seattle that Chambers had first listed. But that letter was returned as undeliverable. That's when Chambers admitted that his real address is the one in Granite Falls (where Hulten lives).

The whole affair is rather confusing and more than a little comical.

Anyone can file a PDC or an OPA complaint, and there's really no reason to be secretive about it (except if the filing was done on county time and someone didn't want it to come back to a certain campaign).

The case is also made more important by rumors that Reardon is considering jumping into the race for governor.

Of course all of it is hearsay at this point. Hulten denies he made the complaints. And "John Chambers" has suddenly disappeared.

If anything, the whole episode proves just how childish and shady that even local political campaigns can get.

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