New Emails Show First Lady Cylvia Hayes Regularly Used State Employee To Book Personal Business Travel

Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes

Newly released emails show that Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes regularly used a state-paid employee in the office of her fiancé, Gov. John Kitzhaber, to book travel and hotel for Hayes' private consulting business.

The emails show Hayes used public resources for her personal benefit, treating her government assistant as a private secretary for her consulting business.

The emails further illustrate reporting in an Oct. 8 WW story that showed Hayes mixed her dual role as first lady and adviser to the governor with her private consulting business, 3E Strategies. In November, following WW's stories, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission announced that it would investigate Hayes and Kitzhaber under the state's conflict of interest law, which prohibits a public official such as Hayes from using her position for personal gain.

Kitzhaber's office released the emails to WW on Friday, as a result of a request made by the newspaper in early October under the Oregon public records law.

The records show Hayes directed Mary Rowinski, a $60,000-a-year aide in Kitzhaber's office, to book hotels, airplane reservations and ground transportation for trips so Hayes could travel for her private consulting business, which expanded after Kitzhaber took office in 2011.

Rowinski also scheduled business meetings for Hayes, maintained Hayes' personal calendar, scheduling details such as troubleshooting meetings for Hayes' business website. 

Kitzhaber spokeswoman Amy Wojcicki says the governor's staff was unaware that Hayes was using a state-paid assistant to make travel arrangement for her private business.

"If she engaged state staff to assist with travel arrangements and was reimbursed for any travel expenses, it was because our office had the understanding that she was making the request in her official role as first lady," Wojcicki told WW in an email.

As first lady, Hayes frequently represents the state and the governor. She has also served as an adviser to Kitzhaber on energy and economic development issues.

That work for the Kitzhaber administration put Hayes into contact with three private nonprofits seeking to influence state policy: Demos, a New York think tank; the Energy Foundation, a San Francisco group that advocates for renewable fuels; and Resource Media, a Seattle public relations firm that works on climate change issues.

In 2013, Hayes signed consulting contracts with all three groups, seeking to advance their agendas even as she served as an adviser to Kitzhaber on the same policy areas that concerned her clients. The contracts paid Hayes $85,000 and marked a major expansion of her business.

The newly released emails show numerous examples of Hayes instructing Rowinski to book her travel.

In April 2013, for example, Hayes arranged to speak at a conference on ocean acidification at the University of California, Irvine on behalf of her client, Resource Media.

"Hi Cylvia. You've been confirmed as a panelist (or a speaker, details to come) for the OA conference on the afternoon of Friday, May 3rd at UC Irvine," Resource Media's Julie Dixon wrote to Hayes on April, 1, 2013.

Hayes then instructed Rowinski to make arrangements for her business trip.

"Greetings M," Hayes wrote to Rowinski on April 9, 2013. "Will you please check into airfare from PDX to Irvine California departing May 2nd late in the day and returning late in the day May 3rd?"

Rowinski booked that flight and many others.

In May 2013, Hayes arranged to speak at Capitol Hill Ocean Week, in Washington, D.C., again on behalf of Resource Media.

"Greetings M," Hayes wrote on May 20, 2013. "Please reserve a room for me June 4th and 5th."

Later that month, Hayes traveled to Vermont to speak at a conference and afterwards to Maryland to host a panel for another client, Demos. That trip required dozens of emails between Hayes and Rowinski because Hayes had initially committed to going just to Vermont. She subsequently told Rowinski to cancel that ticket and rebook a ticket that would allow her to go both places.

"Could you check on a flight from Vermont to Baltimore on June 13th and then Baltimore to PDX on the 15th?,"  Hayes wrote to Rowinski on March 21, 2013. In that email to the state-paid employee, she identified herself as CEO of 3E Strategies, her consulting company.

Hayes' frequent travel was often confusing to Rowinski because it was often unclear to her whether Hayes was making trips on behalf of the state or her private consulting clients.

"Refresh my memory—are you supposed to get reimbursed for this trip? If so, do you have any receipts?" Rowinski wrote after Hayes returned from a trip to Washington in April 2013.

Emails show Hayes' travel required a lot of Rowinski's time to document.

"I will leave a pile of things for you on the counter at Mahonia [the governor's mansion]," Hayes wrote to Rowinski on June 18, 2013. "There will be several sets of receipts. Will you please copy and scan those into electronic docs for each organization/client so that I can send them?"

Sometimes, the arrangements grew more complicated. In October 2013, for example, Hayes wanted to travel to Seattle on behalf of Demos, her New York-based client. On that trip, she wanted to bring her dog, a Rhodesian ridgeback named Tessa.

Finding a Seattle hotel that allowed dogs proved challenging—and the job fell to Rowinski, who was on the public payroll while doing work for Hayes' private business.

"Boy, every hotel/motel I've tried in the downtown area do not take pets, like the Travelodge, Quality Inn, Red Lion, Holiday Inn Express and Motel 8 will only take pets under 30 lbs," Rowinski wrote. "Will the state be paying for this? I know it's a lot of money, but this is fairly last minute. The Monaco has government rate cheaper rooms, but it is too late to grab one of those."

The best deal Rowinski could find was the Hotel Monaco at $312 a night. Hayes could live with that.

"Let's leave it as is then," Hayes wrote. "Demos will reimburse me."

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