Oregon fourth-term Governor John Kitzhaber resigned Friday, Feb. 13, concluding a months-long scandal involving his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes.
State Treasurer Ted Wheeler said in an interview with The Oregonian that “the governor needs to focus on defending himself on a criminal investigation. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do that and be a full-time governor.”
“It is with deep sadness that I ask Governor John Kitzhaber to resign his position as Governor of Oregon,” said Wheeler. “He has accomplished many great things during his long career, and history will be kinder to him than current events suggest.”
“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,” said Kitzhaber in a closed-door statement to his staff this morning. “As a former presiding officer I fully understand the reasons for which I have been asked to resign.”
Rumors began to circulate that Kitzhaber would be resigning on Feb. 11 when he had Secretary of State Kate Brown flown back from a meeting in Washington D.C. However, upon her arrival, he said he would not be resigning. Brown called the situation, “bizarre,” and in a press conference that day, she told the press, “I am ready, and my staff will be ready, should he resign.”
The Hayes scandal began in early fall when Willamette Week exposed that he used taxpayer resources to aid a consulting business of hers. It was worsened when she admitted she had been paid to marry an Ethiopian immigrant so he could gain legal immigration status. That statute of limitations had run out, so she was never prosecuted.
The month of October only got worse for Hayes when she acknowledged that in 1997, she and her then-boyfriend bought land in Washington which was going to be used for a marijuana growing operation.
On Nov. 7th, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission opened a preliminary investigation, and in early January, Hayes and Kitzhaber hired private lawyers to represent them.
However, the Governor’s problems were not over, because on Jan. 27, facts were brought to light showing that Hayes had received a $118,000 contract which was paid out over two years from the Clean Economy Development Center, a nonprofit that she worked for. At the same time, she was advising the Governor on similar issues.
Kitzhaber held a press conference on Jan. 30 at which he stated that Hayes would have no further role in the administration.
On Feb. 4, the Oregonian Editorial Board wrote an article stating that Kitzhaber should resign, stating, “He can no longer lead Oregon effectively and should resign. His constituents deserve better.”
On Feb. 9, Kitzhaber asked Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to conduct an investigation into him, Hayes, and his administration. She responded and said she had already launched a criminal investigation.
However, after Democrats across the state began calling for his resignation, the news broke Friday that he would be stepping down, and that Brown would become the next Governor of Oregon.
Kitzhaber’s resignation will be effective at 10:00 a.m. on Feb. 18.