PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - John Kitzhaber, who resigned as Oregon’s governor in February over an influence-peddling scandal, told staff that state energy policies should match those his fiancée was being paid to promote for an outside group, the Oregonian newspaper reported.
In a memo to staff the newspaper obtained through public records requests, Kitzhaber wrote that his fiancée, first lady Cylvia Hayes, ought to play the same role, as a spokesperson and advocate for his office, as she does as a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Clean Economy Development Center.
“Cylvia needs to be advocating the same clean economy policy in her role as spokesperson/advocate for the Governor’s Office and her role as a Clean Economy Fellow. There cannot be any daylight between them,” Kitzhaber said in the 2011 memo posted on the Oregonian website on Thursday. “But this is another reason why she needs a role in developing the policy itself.”
Kitzhaber resigned amid federal corruption probes stemming from allegations Hayes used her role in his office for personal gain. He has denied any wrongdoing, and no charges have been brought in an ongoing federal investigation.
Hayes has admitted to receiving $118,000 in previously undisclosed consulting fees in 2011 and 2012 for her work with the non-profit Clean Economy Development Center while also advising the governor on energy policy.
Kitzhaber, who did not reveal those consulting fees in annual disclosure filings, has said the pair did not see her two roles as a potential conflict of interest and therefore did not believe it had to be reported.
The center said on its website that Hayes’ fellowship focused on advocating the economic benefits of clean economy projects. She was never on the center’s payroll directly but her fellowship was funded by two foundations, with payments made to Hayes’ consulting firm, 3E Strategies, it said.
“Former Governor Kitzhaber at no point altered his administration’s policies to match those promoted by the non-profits that employed Ms. Hayes,” Kitzhaber’s attorney Janet Hoffman said in a statement responding to the email’s release.
Hoffman said Kitzhaber looks forward to a full and unbiased review of the facts.
Kitzhaber and Hayes have fought the release of their private emails to local media. Hayes was not paid for her role in Kitzhaber’s office.
An attorney representing Hayes could not be reached immediately for comment. Nor could a representative of the Clean Economy Development Center.
Reporting by Shelby Sebens in Portland, Oregon; Editing by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and Richard Chang