PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Oregon’s flagship newspaper is calling on the state’s Democratic governor, whom it endorsed for re-election last year, to resign amid a controversy over whether his fiancée’s consulting work posed a conflict of interest with her role as an unpaid adviser.
The call by the Oregonian in an editorial on Wednesday came after Governor John Kitzhaber told a news conference last week that his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, would no longer have a policy role in his office.
Oregon’s state ethics commission is investigating complaints, including by the Republican Party, about possible conflicts of interest involving Hayes that have raised questions about whether her acceptance of consulting contracts may have violated ethics rules.
“More ugliness may surface, but it should be clear by now to Kitzhaber that his credibility has evaporated to such a degree that he can no longer serve effectively as governor,” read the editorial, written by the paper’s five-member board. “If he wants to serve his constituents he should resign.”
Kitzhaber has said he would not consider resigning, and had no regrets about his personal relationship with Hayes.
“I was elected to serve the citizens of the state of Oregon and I intend to continue to do so,” Kitzhaber said in a statement.
Kitzhaber, who was re-elected to an unprecedented fourth term last year, has been dogged by revelations surrounding his fiancée since she admitted in October she wed an immigrant years ago in a “marriage of convenience.”
His announcement that Hayes would no longer have a role in his office came after media reports she earned $118,000 in previously undisclosed consulting fees in 2011 and 2012 from the Washington-based Clean Economy Development Center while advising the governor on energy policy.
Kitzhaber did not disclose Hayes’ income on his annual economic interest statements despite disclosing other revenue she had received via consulting contracts. He has said the couple did not feel it was required to be reported.
The Oregonian reported this week that two people involved with Kitzhaber’s 2010 campaign had helped Hayes find work with organizations looking to influence state policy.
“Suffice it to say there’s a pattern, and the person who bears the responsibility for allowing it to form and persist is Kitzhaber, who should know better,” the Oregonian said. “After all, as he pointed out during Friday’s press conference, he’s been serving in public office on and off since the 1970s.”
Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney