January 5th, 2011 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

Kroger Rejects Kulongoski's Request for Outside Counsel in Investigation

John Kroger

Attorney General John Kroger today rejected Gov. Ted Kulongoski's request to hire an independent lawyer to investigate contracting practices at the Oregon Department of Energy.

Kulongoski, whose term ends Jan. 10, made that request yesterday. The governor cited a "potential conflict of interest" that could affect the AG's office to conduct such a probe. It remains unclear what that conflict of interest might be.

But in a letter to Kulongoski today, Associate Attorney General David Leith rejected the notion that there might be a conflict.
"ORS 180.235 provides that the Attorney General may authorize a state officer or agency to retain separate counsel only where representation by the Attorney General of multiple officers or agencies would tend to create a conflict of interest," Leith wrote. "No such circumstance exists here. Certainly, there is no conflict of interest merely because the Department of Justice conducted a criminal investigation related to the same contracting practices. Similarly, the fact that we already have provided legal advice to you on the related personnel matters does not create a conflict that would preclude us from providing futher legal assistance on those matters. Lacking any circumstances that would create or tend to create a conflict, we are without statutory authority to grant your request."

Kulongosk's spokeswoman, Anna Richter Taylor, says her boss thinks Kroger's response is "unfortunate."

"The governor has a great deal of respect for the office of the Attorney General," Richter Taylor says. "The governor was AG himself and as atttorney general he had disagreements with the governor at that time. But there was time to work out consensus. There is not now."

"The governor wishes he could get this resolved before Jan. 10," Richter Taylor added. "There are other big issues the incoming governor [John Kitzhaber] will need to deal with. It is unfortunate time just won't allow for resolution of this matter before [Kitzhaber] takes office."
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