Thomas Swankosy remembers the day in the summer of 2006 when a tall, fit woman came into the Major League Pizza restaurant in Smokey Point, crying and reading a stack of letters. That woman, he and several others now say, was Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon's mistress.
"We were all sitting around and we saw this blonde woman outside, we saw her crying and tearing up papers and throwing them in the trash," says Swankosy. "We thought she's obviously mad at someone. So after she threw the letters away, we took them out and I spent the night taping them back together."
Asked what the letters said, Swankosy explains: "They were love letters, and some were breakup letters between this Tammy woman and Aaron Reardon . . . She wrote that she could ruin his marriage and ruin his chances of ever being an elected official again. She was saying things like 'How could you do this to me?' and 'I could ruin you.' "
State Rep. Mike Hope, Reardon's recently defeated political opponent, as well as several other people who, unlike Hope, seemingly have no axe to grind, now say that the heartbroken woman was 41-year-old Snohomish County resident Tamara Dutton. They also say that she has been in a long-term adulterous relationship with Reardon, in which, they claim, taxpayer money was used frequently to support and/or cover up the relationship. This information appears to dovetail with details from an ongoing investigation by the Washington State Patrol into Reardon's use of public funds.
Last week the Everett Herald published a story noting that the current investigation into Reardon included testimony from an unnamed county employee who feels threatened by Reardon, saying she thinks he "could do her harm." The story also cited the woman's worries over a "letter that she threw away in Smokey Point."
The Seattle Times also ran a piece on the affair, but did not name Dutton, seemingly because she had agreed to talk to them. The Times did get the woman on record, however, as saying that Snohomish County money indeed had been used to finance several trips Reardon took her on, in which he supposedly did little more than sit around and waste time.
"We had heard all summer that Aaron Reardon was rumored to have many affairs," Hope told Seattle Weekly. "We don't really care about Aaron's personal life, but we were concerned that there was taxpayer money being used to support these relationships."
Dutton, a bodybuilder and former employee at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center in Everett who now works at the Snohomish County Human Services Department, did not return calls seeking comment.
The Washington State Patrol, meanwhile, which has been extremely tight-lipped about the investigation, seemed unwittingly to confirm Dutton's involvement. Reaching him by phone, I asked WSP spokesman Bob Calkins if the name Tamara Dutton rang a bell. "You mean in the Aaron Reardon case?" he replied unprompted, before explaining that he couldn't comment.
In 2004, according to the above-named sources, Dutton and two other women sued Snohomish County for sexual harassment. One of Dutton's former managers at Denney was supposedly set to testify, claims Hope, and considered spilling the beans about the illicit affair between her and Reardon. But before that could happen, the case was quietly settled, and no one ever had to talk on the record about what happened.
After piecing together the quarreling lovers' letters, Swankosy says he told the Herald and other newspapers about the notes, but got no interest. Blair Anderson, Hope's former treasurer who now works at a building firm in Texas, says that in 2007 he also got a call from a different friend who worked at Major League Pizza about those same letters. Anderson says this friend echoed Swankosy's story about the blonde woman and the breakup notes, and because at the time he was in frequent contact with Reardon through his job lobbying the county for building contracts, he says he told Reardon about them.
"Aaron didn't deny anything," Anderson says. "He was very interested in where those letters were and what they said. But he never denied anything that was in them."
None of these accusations have been proven in court, or even publicly alleged by prosecutors. And normally such a lack of info might make for good gossip but little else—indeed, it's been common gossip among people who follow Reardon.
In this case, however, with multiple sources on the record naming names; the WSP appearing to confirm Dutton's involvement; the Times anonymously confirming the info; and notes from an investigation corroborating specific details of the sources' stories, it's clear that, at the very least, these accusations have more than enough merit for residents of Snohomish County, and Washington state as a whole, to know about them.
For his part, Reardon has been mostly silent, offering only a terse statement—"I am innocent of all criminal accusations and am confident I will be fully exonerated"—that, tellingly, ignored the affair accusations.