Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has agreed to pay $20,000 in civil penalties after a state government ethics investigation found he used public resources to benefit himself.
The proposed agreement, which appeared today in an Oregon Government Ethics Commission agenda and was first spotted by the Portland Tribune, marks a conclusion to the influence-peddling scandal that torpedoed Kitzhaber's fourth term as governor in 2015.
The $20,000 penalty is 20 times as large as the agreement Kitzhaber reached with ethics commission staff in November. Ethics commissioners rejected the $1,000 settlement, saying it was far too lenient.
Ethics investigators concluded in February that Kitzhaber violated state conflict-of-interest laws and used public office for personal gain. Most of the violations related to environmental consulting contracts obtained by Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes while she worked on energy policy in the governor's office.
WW first reported on those conflicts of interest in October 2014, launching a scandal that led to Kitzhaber's resignation in 2015.
Kitzhaber appeared in person before the ethics commission last month, pleading for his legacy and arguing that Hayes acted without his knowledge. "I failed to stay personally engaged and informed about the nature of the contracts and professional activities," Kitzhaber said. "I erred."
Commissioners didn't buy it. They backed the investigation's findings, albeit mournfully.
"This is almost a heartbreak to me," commission member Charles Starr told Kitzhaber. "God be with you."
The commission still must decide whether to accept Kitzhaber's proposed $20,000 settlement, or seek another $30,000 in fines.
Meanwhile, the Bend Bulletin reported this morning that The Oregonian has placed a lien on Hayes' house, trying to recoup its legal expenses from seeking release of her emails.