Former Gov. John Kitzhaber appeared before the Oregon Government Ethics Commission in Salem on Feb. 16 to respond to an investigator's findings that Kitzhaber had probably committed 11 violations of state ethics laws.
The appearance marked the first time that Oregon's longest-serving governor, who resigned less than two months into his fourth term in 2015, has publicly addressed allegations of influence peddling related to first lady Cylvia Hayes' private consulting contracts.
Here are three takeaways from the hearing:
He's still got it.
In brief statements since he resigned, Kitzhaber, 70, has come across as defensive and unrepentant. Last week, however, both in his opening statement and in his unscripted responses to commissioners' questions, Kitzhaber appeared thoughtful, humble and deeply apologetic.
"If I've made violations," he told the commission, "I want to be held accountable."
He acknowledged neglecting to monitor Hayes. "I failed to stay personally engaged and informed about the nature of the contracts and professional activities," Kitzhaber said. "I erred."
Even when commissioners made it clear they weren't buying his argument that he'd never used his office for personal gain, he schmoozed with them after his hearing ended.
Hayes poisoned the well.
The commission held a similar hearing Jan. 5, 2017, on an investigation into Hayes' contracts. Neither Hayes nor her attorney showed up for that hearing, which irked commissioners.
"It would have been nice to ask some questions," said commission chairwoman Alison Kean.
The commissioners voted unanimously to find Hayes had committed 22 ethics law violations and clamored for the maximum possible fines—recommending an unprecedented $5,000 per violation.
That raised the degree of difficulty for Kitzhaber. "My recommendation," Kean said Jan. 5, "is that the governor be treated with a much higher standard."
He's willing to admit she lied.
Kitzhaber and his attorney, Janet Hoffman, revealed something new last week: a divergence between Kitzhaber and Hayes.
In the 23-page letter Hoffman submitted to the commission and in the remarks she and Kitzhaber made, the message was loud and clear: In her efforts to obtain work from potential contract partners, Hayes repeatedly misrepresented her role in Kitzhaber's administration.
Hoffman blistered Hayes in her letter, saying the first lady misrepresented her role in the governor's office without his knowledge.
"[Kitzhaber] was not aware that Ms. Hayes reported to nonprofit organizations, for instance, that she convened governors' offices or reinvigorated the Pacific Coast Collaborative or spearheaded Oregon's adoption of the [Genuine Progress Indicator]—all of which is inaccurate."
The commission will decide Hayes' penalty in March. She's scheduled to give a TEDx talk in Bend on March 31.