Former Gov. John Kitzhaber is accused of violating state ethics laws by using his office for financial gain and failing to disclose conflicts of interest.

PARIS ACHEN/CAPITAL BUREAU - Former Gov. John Kitzhaber speaks to the Oregon Ethics Commission in Salem in February.Former Gov. John Kitzhaber has agreed to settle a state ethics case against him for $20,000.

The proposed agreement between the Oregon Ethics Commission and the former governor who resigned in February 2015 amid an influence-peddling scandal is 20 times more than a previous proposed settlement, which the commission rejected.

In February, the ethics commission voted to pursue 10 alleged violations of state ethics law by Kitzhaber.

The "preliminary findings of violation" were based on a 135-page report released in February by state investigators.

Kitzhaber violated law prohibiting use of his office for personal financial gain at least twice when he took actions that benefited his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes's environmental consulting firm, 3E Strategies, investigators wrote in the report. Hayes lived in the governor's residence in Salem with Kitzhaber, and her payments from clients were counted as part of the couple's household income in mandatory statements of economic interest.

"The commission made no finding that former Governor Kitzhaber intentionally used his position as governor to advance the financial interests of Ms. Hayes or 3E Strategies," states the proposed stipulated final order, released Wednesday, March 28. "Such intent is not a necessary element."

As governor, he was "personally responsible to ensure that he did not engage in any policy decisions, discussions, speeches, meetings, directives to staff or official actions that would further the financial interest of 3E Strategies," they wrote.

Kitzhaber attended meetings for which Hayes was either being paid or was seeking contracts with environmental advocacy groups and promoted and advanced her business, they wrote. For instance, he gave a speech in May 2013 at a planning retreat at the governor's residence, Mahonia Hall, to discuss transitioning Oregon to a different economic measurement formula that factors in environmental health. Hayes was being paid by public policy organization Demos for facilitating the meeting.

In addition, Kitzhaber failed to publicly disclose his potential conflicts of interest and actual conflicts in at least seven instances, as required by state law, the investigators wrote.

He also allegedly improperly accepted United Airlines Premier Platinum status, worth an estimated $4,000. That violates Oregon law prohibiting public officials from accepting gifts valued at more than $50. Kitzhaber has said he was unaware that he had received the platinum status.

If the commission rejects the proposed settlement, Kitzhaber could face up to $50,000 in fines for the alleged violations.

In November, Kitzhaber and ethics commission staff members came up with a proposed settlement of $1,000, but the ethics commission rejected that agreement in November, as first reported by the Pamplin/EO Media Group.

The ethics commission has an ethics case pending against Hayes.

Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau
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