News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Oregon climate disrupted: Four term Gov. resigns as state AG begins criminal investigation into his and green consultant First Lady dealings-LA Times

"The "disruption" was agonizing."
2/13/15, "Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber resigns amid ethics investigations," LA Times, Maria L. LaGanga, Salem, Ore.

"Gov. John Kitzhaber announced his resignation Friday, ending weeks of speculation about whether he could lead Oregon with the cloud of at least two investigations into possible ethical breaches hanging over his head.

The resignation, which is effective Wednesday, was sent in a letter submitted to Secretary of State Kate Brown, who is expected to succeed him.

“I am announcing today that I will resign as Governor of the State of Oregon,” he wrote in a statement released just after noon.

“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.”

Kitzhaber had met with his staff in the late morning to tell them his plans.

The embattled governor faces allegations that his fiancee used their relationship to win contracts for her consulting business and failed to report income on her taxes. The state’s two top legislative leaders and the state treasurer -- all Democrats, as is the 67-year-old governor-- had called on Kitzhaber on Thursday to resign.

Brown was poised to move to the governor's office, but will have to run in 2016. In a statement, Treasurer Ted Wheeler noted the looming election.

“I have been around long enough to know that the resignation of Gov. Kitzhaber and the constitutional mandate for an election in 2016 will set off a flurry of speculation about what happens next," he said. 

"There will be a time for politics, but now is not that time. In the coming days, Oregonians should pull together to support Gov. Brown and her team in their efforts to bring stability to the governor’s office."

Wheeler went on to thank Kitzhaber for his service.

"I wish him the very best in the years ahead. Oregonians are a resilient people, and I am certain that we will emerge from this difficult period as a stronger and more unified state,” he said.

The associations representing Democratic and Republican governors agreed that Kitzhaber was right to step down, but differed sharply on what happens next. The Democratic group praised Brown while the Republicans called for new leadership in 2016.

Although questions about First Lady Cylvia Hayes, a 47-year-old clean energy consultant, have dogged the couple for months, the end of Kitzhaber's 35-year career in public service came swiftly and agonizingly.

On Monday, state Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum announced in a three-sentence letter to Kitzhaber that she had begun a criminal investigation into the troubled first couple. The state Ethics Commission was already investigating whether Hayes had falsified tax forms and been paid consulting fees to influence her future husband and just what Kitzhaber's involvement had been.

The next day, Kitzhaber sat down with Peter Courtney, president of the state Senate and a longtime friend and colleague, and said he planned to step down, ending his historic fourth term after just a month.

He also called Secretary of State Kate Brown, who was in Washington, D.C., for a conference, and summoned her back to Oregon for an emergency, private meeting.

On Wednesday, Brown hopped on a plane. But when she was escorted into the governor's office, Kitzhaber asked her why she was there. He later announced, emphatically and for the third time in less than two weeks, that he had no plans to resign.

Thursday came the political bombshells. Courtney and Tina Kotek, speaker of the state House of Representatives, had met late into the evening Wednesday and finally decided that they had no choice but to demand Kitzhaber's resignation.

The chaos in the Capitol had been threatening the workings of the Beaver State, where the legislature was in session, executive appointments had to be made, Courtney said, and the "disruption" was agonizing.

"That's what makes this so significant," Courtney said Thursday. Beyond asking for Kitzhaber's resignation, "we have no powers. What am I going to do? I'm not going to stop committees from meeting. I'm not going to stop the session.”

And then on Thursday, Courtney read the statement that he had written for the day Kitzhaber would resign. The emotional state Senate president and longtime Kitzhaber friend didn't know it at the time, but he was a day premature.

"No public servant has given more to Oregon," Courtney said after cataloging the former emergency room doctor's long history in public service -- as a state representative, a state senator, president of the state Senate and 12 years in the governor's office, "longer than anyone else."...

State House Republican Leader Mike McLane said it was a sad day for Oregon. “I take no delight in John Kitzhaber's resignation but understand his decision,” McLane said in a statement.

The Capitol was a strange mix of somber and festive in the hours leading up to Kitzhaber's Friday the 13th announcement. On Saturday, Oregon would be celebrating statehood, and the Oregon Wheat Commission had brought big sheetcakes that proclaimed, "Happy Birthday Oregon 156."

State Archivist Mary Beth Herkert had set up shop under the rotunda, one floor below the beleaguered governor's ceremonial offices. She flipped the pages of the original Oregon Constitution, a supple document that prepared the state for days just like this one.

Article V, Section 8a sets out the line of succession should a sitting governor resign: Secretary of state. State treasurer. President of the state Senate. Several governors before Kitzhaber had resigned, but none did so under a cloud....

Kitzhaber had managed to survive the 11th-hour revelation that his fiancee and decade-long companion had entered into a fraudulent green-card marriage in 1997, receiving $5,000 to wed an Ethiopian national so that he could stay in the country.

But he could not survive the deepening scandal."


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