Cylvia Hayes responds to Oregon Gov't Ethics Commission's decision to launch investigation

Cylvia Hayes

Former Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes sent KATU a response to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission's decision to conduct a full investigation into whether she used her relationship as the fiancée of then-Gov. John Kitzhaber to win contracts for her consulting business.

KATU talked exclusively with Hayes last week in her first media interview since the U.S. Justice Department decided not to press criminal charges in the case. The end of the federal investigation in June prompted the ethics panel to restart its preliminary review, which it suspended in 2015 when the criminal probe began.

The commission decided Friday to go ahead with a full investigation of both Hayes and Kitzhaber that could last six months. The vote was unanimous.

Ethics rules bar public officials from using their positions for personal gain. Kitzhaber has maintained he did nothing wrong. He said he resigned in February 2015 because the media frenzy prevented him from being effective.

Hayes sent KATU the following statement on Saturday:

"What I have to say about this is that it is frustrating but not surprising given the truly incredible bombardment of allegations and speculation by the media. As I said in our recent interview I hope that the commissioners will realize the filing of the ethics complaint was clearly a political move by Republican interests during the gubernatorial campaign. The cited sources of so-called evidence in the complaint were several Oregonian and Willamette Week articles that, as has been noted, were filled with misinformation. I was confident all along that we would be exonerated in the federal investigation because I knew the truth. I am similarly confident here."

KATU's news partner, Willamette Week, which broke the story of the scandal in 2014, maintains its coverage has been accurate.

"We proudly stand by our reporting," Aaron Mesh, Willamette Week's news editor, said Monday.

Mark Katches, editor of the Oregonian, told KATU, "It is not surprising the former First Lady is upset with us. She lost in court when we forced the disclosure of documents she had improperly withheld; she still owes us more than $100,000 in court-ordered legal fees; and our reporting helped expose her own ethical lapses and questionable judgment."

On Friday, Oregon Republican Party Chairman Bill Currier issued a statement saying, in part:

“After three years, it is welcome news that the Oregon Government Ethics Commission will finally proceed with investigating some of the most severe ethical breaches by a high public official in Oregon history. Perhaps it is the beginning of the long overdue exposing and rooting out of corruption in our state government, and finally holding accountable those who engage in it."

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