Gov. John Kitzhaber Asks the Oregon Ethics Commission to Weigh In On First Lady Cylvia Hayes' Contracts

After rejecting investigation, Kitzhaber wants Hayes' role clarified

Gov. John Kitzhaber, under growing political pressure over the actions of First Lady Cylvia Hayes, today asked the Oregon Government Ethics Commission to investigate Hayes over allegations she profited from her connections to the governor's office.

In a letter the to ethics commission, Kitzhaber general counsel Liani Reeves says the governor's office wants Hayes' role as first lady clarified under Oregon ethics law. Reeves says Kitzhaber is seeking the ethics commission's opinion as to whether Hayes falls under ethics laws, and, if she does, whether or not her work as a private consulting contracts ran afoul of those laws.

The letter is puzzling considering statements Reeves made to WW in August. Reeves, Kitzhaber's top lawyer, told WW she considered Hayes a public official under Oregon law. 

Here is Reeves' letter:

October 13, 2014

Oregon Government Ethics Commission 3218 Pringle Rd. SE, Suite 220 Salem, OR 97302-1544

Dear Commission Members:

Recent media coverage has raised questions on the separation of Cylvia Hayes's private consulting work from her role as the First Lady of Oregon. While Oregon statutes do not include any definition of the First Lady role, in an abundance of caution, over the past three and a half years the Governor's Office has treated Cylvia Hayes in her First Lady role as a "public official" J a in order to ensure compliance with state ethics statutes. Accordingly, we have reviewed her proposed professional business activities and have put measures in place to avoid any conflicts of interest or other ethical violations. Much thought has been given to how to strike the appropriate balance between allowing Ms. Hayes to continue to pursue her longstanding professional career While also serving the State of Oregon as First Lady.

Given the concerns that have arisen, we are requesting the Commission to provide a formal opinion on the First Lady's role, the private business activity conducted by Cylvia Hayes, and the Governor's Office activities with respect to keeping the roles separate and transparent. First and foremost, we would seek your opinion on Whether you believe the First Lady meets the definition of a "public official." If so, we are seeking an additional opinion on Whether the circumstances indicate that Cylvia Hayes used her position as the First Lady of Oregon to benefit herself financially or otherwise violated state ethics laws. If circumstances indicate that a violation may have occurred, we would expect you to proceed as you would on any other potential ethics investigation.

The Governor has instructed our staff to cooperate fully in your review. We have enclosed copies of the contracts reviewed by our office in order to craft appropriate conflict of interest disclosures and the disclosure forms themselves. Please let me know if there are other materials that would be helpful for your review.


Liani J. Reeves General Counsel Office of the Governor

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