February 1st, 2011 3:01 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Politics

War of Words Continues Around ODOE Investigation

John KrogerJohn Kroger. - IMAGE: cameronbrowne.com

Last week, The Oregonian reported on details of an Oregon Department of Justice investigation into contracting practices at the Oregon Department of Energy. That investigation is politically fraught because it involves an ODOE subcontractor, Cylvia Hayes, who is the longtime companion of Gov. John Kitzhaber.

The O based its reporting on a copy of the Justice Department investigative file that DOJ had distributed to lawyers for four Energy Department employees placed on administrative leave as a result of the investigation. Since the investigation concluded on Dec. 29, DOJ has pledged to make the information it gathered public as soon as the suspended employees either accept or waive the opportunity to have a "name-clearing" hearing.

But the release of the massive cache of documents—they fill nine compact discs—keeps getting pushed back.

On Jan. 26, Oregon Department of Justice lawyer Donna Bennett wrote [PDF] to lawyers for the four Oregon Department of Energy employees asking them for the immediate return of the discs.

"It appears the discs may contain information that should not have been released," Bennett wrote. "Accordingly, we request that you and your clients return to DOJ, care of me, the nine computer discs that were provided to you and that you and your client destroy any electronic or hard copies of those discs that have been made and refrain from disseminating any information on the discs. We assume that you as an attorney and your client as a state employee will respect this request."

Bennett's letter followed more than a month of increasingly contentious communication between DOJ and the lawyers for former ODOE director Mark Long.

On Jan. 28, Long's attorneys, Bill Gary and Dave Frohnmayer responded [PDF].

"Although we did not ask to be provided with the confidential documents that DOJ disclosed, we are not willing to return them when they are in possession of Mr. Long's employer [the state of Oregon], its attorneys, the judge reviewing his conduct and the press," Gary and Frohnmayer wrote.

David Angeli, a lawyer for another suspended ODOE employee, Shelli Honeywell, took a similar position. That leaves the situation in something of a stalemate—with the suspended employees in limbo and the full disclosure of all the interview transcripts with the principals still not available to the public a month after the investigation officially concluded.
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