Last week was supposed to mark the end of investigations into former Gov. John Kitzhaber.
After federal and state investigations fizzled, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission staff reached a settlement agreement with Kitzhaber's attorney. It was a great deal for the disgraced governor, who resigned in February 2015 as the spotlight increased on an influence-peddling scandal surrounding the consulting work of his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes. Kitzhaber would settle three allegations of conflicts of interest (and one of improperly obtaining frequent flyer miles) by agreeing to pay a $1,000 fine.
But commissioners found a Facebook statement he released prior to their meeting less than contrite and were unsatisfied with his attorney's responses to
"I think it would hurt the commission long term by going with a small penalty," Commissioner Dan Mason, a Hillsboro Republican, tells WW. "If you are small-town public official, and you see the former governor getting this settlement, do you really take the ethics laws seriously?"
Here's a timeline of key events.
Nov. 15, 8:49 am: The Oregon Government Ethics Commission releases its agenda for its Nov. 17 meeting, including a proposed $1,000 fine to settle four ethics law violations.
Nov. 15, 3:36 pm: Kitzhaber releases a statement on Facebook. "I did not perceive a conflict of interest because I understood the work that Ms. Hayes was doing for various nonprofit organizations was not directed at trying to shape or influence state policy," he wrote. "[But] I accept full responsibility for this violation and believe the proposed settlement to be a fair resolution of the case."
Nov. 17, 9:00 am: The OGEC kicked off a five-hour meeting. After handling such business as a settlement regarding the Beaver Slough Drainage District, the commission turned to Kitzhaber. The discussion did not go well. In fact, although many commissioners arrived expecting to vote for the settlement, it failed 7-1.
Nov. 20, 4:30 pm: "My last post appears to have been somewhat premature," Kitzhaber wrote on Facebook. "The terms of the proposed settlement, which I accepted, were put forward by the professional staff of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. I was therefore surprised by the reaction of the Commission."
Jan. 5, 2018, 9:00 am: The OGEC is scheduled to reconsider a settlement with Kitzhaber and address alleged ethics violations by Hayes.