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State watchdog had put case on hold, but will take up again in wake of criminal probe's recent closure

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Former Gov. John Kitzhaber and his First Lady, Cylvia Hayes, recently learned they won't face federal crimnal charges. But now the state ethics watchdog will resume its review of the allegations that led to his resignation in February 2015.While the criminal probe of former Gov. John Kitzhaber and his First lady, Cylvia Hayes, has ended, they now will undergo scrutiny from the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.

The Commission issued a statement Tuesday saying that a review of the allegations against kitzhaber and Hayes will now continue.

In February 2015, the commission put its review of three complaints filed over the couple's actions in government on hold, citing a newly launched federal probe.

Under commission rules, its investigators must first conduct a preliminary review to determine whether to launch a full investigation.

In light of the announcement Friday that the federal probe has closed, "the preliminary review will now resume," according to the statement.

Even volunteers are considered subject to state ethics laws. But in December 2014, lawyers for the couple submitted an argument to the Ethics Commission first reported by The Oregonian, saying that ethics commission had no jurisdiction over Hayes because she was not a public official.

As The Oregonian then noted, disclosures at that time already showed that Hayes functioned as a de facto state official and had been given a desk, office, and computer at the Capitol. "She attended governor's staff meetings, spearheaded policy initiatives, had governor staff handle travel arrangements, claimed reimbursement from the state for her expenses, and gave instructions to high-level state officials that they obeyed."

The argument that Hayes wasn't a public official was rejected by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum in a parallel records case, an opinion that was upheld in court.

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