Friday, February 13, 2015

Kate Brown Becomes Oregon Gov as John Kitzhaber Resigns Amid Corruption Allegations

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The US is getting another female governor in Kate Brown after Oregon Gov. John #Kitzhaber officially resigned his office today. His resignation follows a few days of uncertainty in the government of the state amid allegations of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the governor and his fiancee. The Secretary of State Kate Brown will replace Kitzhaber, almost exactly one month after he was sworn in for an unprecedented fourth term.

John Kitzhaber is under criminal investigation by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum's office, and also facing a review from the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, for the role his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes - pictured above with him - held in his office. It is reported that she used that role to obtain private consulting work and the governor may have participated in the corruption.

Kitzhaber had maintained his innocence, and as rumors swirled that he would step down, he continued to deny. However, his resignation letter was finally released today and shows how difficult it was for him to step aside.

"It is not in my nature to walk away from a job I have undertaken. It is to stand and fight for the cause. For that reason I apologize to all those people who gave of their faith, time, energy and resources to elect me to a fourth term last year and who have supported me over the past three decades. I promise you that I will continue to pursue our shared goals and our common cause in another venue."

After listing his achievements as a State Representative, State Senator, Senate President and as Governor of Oregon over almost four decades, Kitzhaber references the reason for his resignation.

I ran for a fourth term as your governor to continue that progress. But the questions that have been raised about my administration – specifically allegations against me concerning the work done by my fiancé Cylvia Hayes and the contracts she obtained during my last term – and the escalating media frenzy that has stemmed from this – has clearly reached the point of no return.

I am confident that I have not broken any laws nor taken any actions that were dishonest or dishonorable in their intent or outcome. That is why I asked both the Ethics Commission and the Attorney General to take a full and comprehensive look at my actions – and I will continue to fully cooperate with those ongoing efforts. I am equally confident that once they have been concluded Oregonians will see that I have never put anything before my love for and commitment to Oregon and faithfully fulfilling the responsibilities of the public offices I have held.

You can read the entire letter here. His resignation is effective Wednesday, he said Friday in a letter tweeted below by KGW News.

The Statesman Journal has more details on the corruption allegations;

Hayes has been scrutinized for apparently using her public role in Kitzhaber's office for private gain, using her policy position to secure contracts for her private consulting firm.

Meanwhile, Kitzhaber has been criticized for apparently giving highly paid jobs to people who gave Hayes contracts.

The governor has repeatedly said it will be up to the Ethics Commission to decide whether he and his fiancee did anything wrong.

However, with the ethics commission review on hold, Rosenblum will have the first chance to release findings. The outcome of her investigation could potentially be severe.

Official misconduct in the first degree is a Class A misdemeanor, and official misconduct in the second degree is a Class C misdemeanor.

The former could earn Kitzhaber or Hayes up to one year in prison and/or a fine of $6,250. The latter could warrant up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of $1,250.

Rosenblum has declined comment on what potential crimes she is specifically investigating.

Investigations of public officials result in no charges about 70 percent of the time, but it is not uncommon for high-level officials to resign as a result, whether charges are brought against them or not.

Photo Credit - Alysha Beck/The Oregonian

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