For a guy leaving office in less than a week, Gov. Ted Kulongoski
is pretty busy.
After Attorney General John Kroger
on Jan. 5 rebuffed Kulongoski's request
that the governor be allowed to hire an independent counsel to investigate contracting practices at the Oregon
Department of Energy, it looked as though Kroger had effectively blocked the governor.
And that meant Gov.-elect John Kitzhaber
, who takes office Jan. 10, would be left to decide the fate of four ODOE employees currently on administrative leave relating to the investigation. The probe centered on a subcontract that Kitzhaber's longtime companion, Cylvia Hayes
, obtained from ODOE.
But now WW
has learned that Kulongoski will take advantage of a loophole
in the statute that requires the attorney general's approval before any state official, including the governor, can hire outside counsel.
In denying Kulongoski's request for an outside counsel, Associate AG David Leith wrote to Kulongoski, "the independent human resources review you propose does not necessarily require the services of legal counsel. To the extent you seek assistance with a personnel decision, and not legal counsel, that service could be performed by a human resources specialist, a community leader, a management counsultant, a law enforcement official, a retired attorney or judge who is no longer a member of the bar, or even an active attorney not practicing law during the course of this project."
has learned that Kulongoski is reaching out less than four days before leaving office to an old friend in Eastern Oregon, retired Malheur County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Frank Yraguen.
Like Kulongoski, Yraguen is a former Marine who earned a law degree in 1970. He served as district attorney in Malheur County before becoming a judge, and lost to Kulongoski in the 1996 race for Oregon Supreme Court.
Kulongoski's spokeswoman Anna Richter Taylor was unavailable for comment.
Updated at 3:38 pm:
Reached at his home in Vale, Judge Yraguen, who retired from the bench in 2000 but still handles some cases as a senior judge, confirmed he has taken on the assignment.
"Living out here in Malheur County we don't get a lot of news from Portland," Yraguen says. "So I know next to nothing about this case but I have agreed to do it."