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Oregon GOP to Demand State Ethics Commission Investigate Kitzhaber

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

 

Gov. John Kitzhaber and fiancee Cylvia Hayes

The Oregon Republican Party will call for an investigation by the state ethics commission into Gov. John Kitzhaber, over alleged ethics violations committed by the governor and Cylvia Hayes. 

The ORP is preparing to file an ethics complaint that would trigger an investigation into both Kitzhaber and Hayes, Oregon Republican Party Vice Chairman Bill Currier said. The party is claiming both Hayes and Kitzhaber violated the Oregon Government Ethics law, or ORS 244.320

This comes on the heels of Kitzhaber requesting the ethics commission provide an opinion on whether Hayes is a public official and subject to the ethics laws. 

“We will be calling for an investigation of both the governor and Cylvia Hayes, according to Oregon ethics law, “ Currier said.  “Clearly Gov. Kitzhaber is attempting to head this off by asking for an opinion but what should be requested is an investigation because there’s plenty of evidence that the Oregon ethics law was violated.” 

The Party claims Kitzhaber violated the ethics law by rewriting ethics rules to allow for Hayes to use Mahonia Hall and the badge of first lady for her personal business. The allegation is based on reporting by Willamette Week. 

The complaint will also accuse Hayes of violating the ethics law by using her title as first lady for a paid speaking event on energy policy, Currier said. 

Last week, The Willamette Week published an expose on Hayes, accusing her of ethics violations and stating that she has profited as a political consultant due to the access she has as the governor's fiancée.

The complaint could result in a review of Kitzhaber and Hayes depending on the determination of the ethics commission, officials said. 

"A Preliminary Review can be initiated either on a signed complaint, or an “own motion” of the Commission," Ethics Commission Executive Director Ron Bersin said. "No not all complaints result in a preliminary review."

Critics have scoffed at Kitzhaber’s call for an opinion from the ethics commission on whether Hayes is subject to the law, saying it doesn’t go far enough. 

“Gov. Kitzhaber’s request for an opinion from the ethics commission is not an investigation,” Currier said. “That is our main concern.” 

Experts say even Hayes’s relationship to the governor makes her a public official and therefore ethical standards should apply.

“As a general rule, in terms of conflicts of interest, those also apply to the public official’s family,” said Hana Callaghan, director of the government ethics program at Santa Clara. She said if a family member is pushing a political agenda then it could be considered a conflict. 

“The public has to come first,” she said, adding she was speaking generally and not specifically to Kitzhaber’s case. 

Conservatives have been quick to pounce on the governor for the alleged misdeeds. 

Critics argue the latest report that Kitzhaber changed ethics rules to accommodate Hayes is telling and that the question over whether she is a public official is moot. 

“I know they are trying to walk that back but that’s a defensive tactic,” Conservative Talk Show Host Lars Larson said. “If she wasn’t a public official she wouldn’t have to rewrite the rules.” 

Dennis Richardson, Kitzhaber's opponent in the race for governor, also issued a statement Tuesday, criticizing Kitzhaber for the alleged suppression of an internal report critical of how Cover Oregon was handling the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

On Tuesday, Currier called for Kitzhaber to drop out of the race for governor. 

"Why doesn’t Kitzhaber do the honorable thing and end his bid for a fourth term," he said. "It’s pretty clear right now that for John Kitzhaber Oregon truly is ungovernable." 

 

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