Cylvia Hayes: Feds haven't asked me about role in Kitzhaber administration

Cylvia Hayes (right) speaks to KATU's Hillary Lake during an interview at Hayes' home in Bend, Oregon. (KATU Photo)

Oregon's former First Lady, Cylvia Hayes is sharing her story about the federal investigation she's under and what's ahead in her future.

"This is terrifying to me. You are terrifying to me," Hayes told KATU News reporter Hillary Lake during an interview at Hayes' home in Bend.

Hayes said it's been hard for her not being able to tell her story over the past year.

"I was damaged. And it took a while to be able to talk, especially with someone from the media because that has not felt like a safe space for me," she said.

Hayes acknowledged doing an interview is a risk.

"But I think it's also a risk to continue to be silent because I think that my silence has helped to make that narrative that was created, helped to make people believe it more," she said.

Hayes is still under federal criminal investigation to determine if she illegally profited in her private role as a clean economy consultant from her public role as Oregon's first lady.

"I had no idea that the investigation would go on this long. I think there was a part of me that was like, 'OK. Let's get that wrapped up and done and then move back on,'" Hayes said.

When asked what federal investigators have asked her, Hayes said, "Nothing. I so wish that I could say something about this. I don't know. I don't know the status of it."

Hayes tells KATU News her attorney has turned over all documents and emails investigators have requested. Hayes' attorney tells KATU News it's typical for an investigation like this to take so long, and they look forward to talking with investigators when the time comes.

When asked about committing crimes in regards to ethics, Hayes said, "I cannot wait until I can answer that question. As you know, that's impossible for me until the investigation closes. I trust that everything is going to be fine here. I do. And I have reason to."

Hayes took on the role of Oregon's first lady when her longtime companion Gov. John Kitzhaber was elected to a third term in 2010.

"There is no guidebook for that position. I wish there had been, and I didn't intend to take the title because we weren't married. But it was so confusing at the beginning because half of an audience would assume that we were (married) and they would call me that and I would try to explain. It was too complicated," she said.

Hayes and Kitzhaber got engaged in August 2014. The months after their engagement were rocky both privately and publicly. In October 2014, Hayes admitted to a secret she'd kept since 1997: she was paid $5,000 to marry an Ethiopian man so he could gain United States citizenship.

"That was such an anomalous like 18 months in my life that I never, ever even thought about it," Hayes explained about why she didn't initially tell Kitzhaber about her third marriage.

The day before that admission, during the end of Kitzhaber's re-election campaign in 2014, Willamette Week first broke reports that Hayes had used taxpayer resources to benefit her consulting business while influencing Kitzhaber's policy decisions.

Days after that, the governor asked the state ethics commission to look into his own fiancée. The state opened up an ethics investigation, and eventually a criminal investigation into Hayes. Those are on hold while the federal investigation continues.

Hayes said the governor knew she was paid for her consulting work involving potential conflicts of interest while she was closely working with his staff.

"Sure. But again, we had cleared things through legal counsel, we had conflict of interest forms, I can't go down this pathway with you anymore right now. I want to. But I can just tell you I made a very good faith effort to do everything above the books," she said.

Kitzhaber's political career had ended by mid-February 2015. He too was the subject of state and federal criminal investigations for the role Hayes played in his administration. He announced on Jan. 30 that Hayes wouldn't play a role in his fourth-term administration. Two weeks later, on Feb. 13, he announced his resignation as governor. That went into effect on Feb. 18.

When asked about Kitzhaber's resignation, Hayes said, "That's a story for John to tell. I wanted to support him. Absolutely, I wanted to support him. You bet. Of course. It was an unbelievably difficult time. No one in the history of the world has experienced what he experienced there, and it was partially my fault."

Hayes' role as first lady of Oregon is at the center of the controversy that surrounds her. She tried to stop the release of her personal email communication with Kitzhaber's staff and other state employees because she claims public records laws didn't apply to her. A judge disagreed and released those emails at the end of 2015.

We'll have more on those emails, and the "inward journey" Hayes said she's on now coming up Friday night at 11 p.m.

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