Governor John Kitzhaber resigned from office this past Friday amid allegations of criminal wrongdoing. Currently under criminal investigation by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s office, the four term governor faces charges over the duel-role his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, played in both the state’s Governor’s office and as a private consultant in the clean energy sector. The Attorney General’s subpoena, investigating a potential conflict of interest, will request financial documents relating to both Kitzhaber and Hayes.
Also revealed in the wake of this investigation, media reports have discovered Hayes entered into an illegal green card marriage in the late 1990s, with the intention to illegally grow marijuana together. Though the Democrat Governor denied any knowledge of the previous marriage, the incident increased the pressure to resign.
“I understand that I have become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career and, indeed, my entire adult life,” Kitzhaber said in his resignation statement. Despite the remorse and abrupt political exit, the state’s Attorney General has stated that a criminal investigation will still occur. The U.S. Congress’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has even demanded the preservation of all documents and communications related to the Governor’s office. Although only a month long, former Governor Kitzhaber’s fourth term has been a constant barrage of new claims and embarrassing revelations.
The smoking gun, an $118,000 contract Hayes accepted with a clean-energy company that was pushing some of Kitzhaber’s policy ideas, was never reported on any tax or economic statement. In a news conference addressing the situation, held on Jan. 30, the former Governor was evasive and tactical in many of his answers and became visibly aggravated by the reporter’s questions. Many political critics cite Kitzhaber’s failure to offer a full explanation or apologize as the key reasons for the pressure to resign.
Kate Brown, Oregon’s Secretary of State, will become the state’s new governor and serve until 2016, when Former Governor Kitzhaber’s term would have reached its conclusion. The first openly bisexual governor in US history, Ms. Brown has already begun receiving national attention. With numerous energy bills still making their way through state legislation, much remains to be seen for Oregon.