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Kitzhaber resigns

SALEM — John Kitzhaber resigned Friday as governor of Oregon in the wake of an ethics scandal involving himself and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes.

The resignation becomes effective at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18. Under Oregon law, Secretary of State Kate Brown will become governor.

Kitzhaber and Hayes are the subjects of a criminal investigation being conducted by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum into allegations of influence peddling by the couple.

In a statement released at noon, Feb. 13, Kitzhaber said "I understand that I have become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career and, indeed, my entire adult life.

"It is not in my nature to walk away from a job I have undertaken — it is to stand and fight for the cause. For that reason I apologize to all those people who gave of their faith, time, energy and resources to elect me to a fourth term last year and who have supported me over the past three decades. I promise you that I will continue to pursue our shared goals and our common cause in another venue."

Press reports during the past several months have raised questions about how Hayes used her influence as Oregon’s first lady to obtain lucrative consulting contracts.

Willamette Week first reported in October that Hayes was paid at least $85,000 for work that overlapped with policies on which she was an official, although unpaid, adviser to the governor. The Pamplin Media Group/EO Media Group Capital Bureau reported Jan. 27 that Hayes was paid an additional $118,000 by a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit called the Clean Economy Development Center that worked in 2014 to organize a coalition in support of a permanent Oregon low-carbon fuels standard.

When an additional job that paid Hayes $25,000 in 2011 is factored in, Hayes’ contracting work during Kitzhaber’s third term appears to have brought in more than $200,000.

It appears that not all of that income was reported by Hayes on her tax returns

Other media outlets have reported that emails released by state agencies show that Hayes pushed policy initiatives directly with state officials and directed employees in the governor’s office to help her with her private business.

Three complaints have been lodged with the Oregon Ethics Commission related to the affair.

On Jan. 30 Kitzhaber announced that Hayes would no longer have a role in his administration. On Feb. 7 he asked the attorney general to conduct a “full and independent factual review” of issues surrounding his office’s handling of Hayes’ contracts.

Nonetheless, he faced growing pressure to resign as the Oregonian revealed he had tried to block the further release of documents to the press and to limit the scope of both the commission’s and the attorney general’s inquiries.

On Tuesday he asked Brown to return early from a trip to Washington, D.C. to discuss a transition. By the time she arrived for a meeting with him Wednesday, Kitzhaber had decided not to resign.

State Democratic officials Thursday called for Kitzhaber to resign.