On March 5, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission announced what seemed to be the end of a long-running case against a former first lady of Oregon, Cylvia Hayes.
Hayes agreed to pay the commission $44,000 in penalties to settle charges that she had committed 22 violations of state ethics laws.
That sum represented a compromise: the maximum possible penalty was $5,000 per violation, or $110,000. The Oregonian first reported the settlement.
But Michael Fuller, Hayes' bankruptcy attorney, tells WW Hayes is probably will not pay more than a small fraction of the $44,000.
"It's unlikely to be paid in full and it's likely that most of it will be forgiven," Fuller says.
From 2011 to 2015, Hayes served as an unpaid advisor to her fiance, then-Gov. John Kitzhaber on the environment and sustainable energy. As WW first reported, Hayes simultaneously also sought and received private consulting contracts from firms seeking to influence state policy in the areas on which Hayes advised Kitzhaber.
In Feburary 2015, Kitzhaber resigned shortly after being sworn in for his fourth term amid investigations into Hayes' contracts. Neither was ever charged with a crime. Kitzhaber earlier settled related ethics violations for $20,000.
After Kitzhaber left office, Hayes battled The Oregonian in court over access to her emails, which the paper requested under the state's public records law, and which she refused to provide. (The OGEC settlement notes what the judge in The Oregonian case resolved: that as an advisor to the governor and first lady, Hayes was a public official and therefore subject to the public records law.)
After the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled Hayes owed The Oregonian about $125,000 in attorney's fees in the public records case, Hayes declared bankruptcy in July 2018. (Fuller says he expects Hayes and the newspaper will reach a resolution of that debt very soon.)
Hayes declared Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Under the terms of that form of bankruptcy, she will repay her creditors pro-rata over the next three to five years, based on available income.
Court filings show, however, that there's little money available to pay debts. In a December filing, Hayes declared income of $3,175 a month from her business, 3E Consulting, and living expenses of $2,985, meaning there's less than $200 a month available to pay creditors.
In December, a lawyer for the Oregon Department of Justice, which represented the OGEC in Hayes' bankruptcy proceedings, wrote that Hayes' unsecured creditors, including the state, were likely to get about two cents on the dollar.
Fuller says that repayment percentage is entirely depending on Hayes' income in coming years.
"So long as my client carries out the good faith payment, what remains of her debt will be forgiven," Fuller says. "Part of the Chapter 13 process is to give people a fresh start."