Amid calls for resignation after conflict of interest allegations involving Oregon Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber and his fiancée and First Lady Cylvia Hayes, on Friday the state’s longest serving chief executive resigned.
The beleaguered governor said that he broke no laws, but would step down effective Wednesday February 18. “Nonetheless, I understand that I have become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career and, indeed, my entire adult life,” he said.
As Oregon law dictates Secretary of State Kate Brown will become the next governor of Oregon. The Washington Post reported that she will become the first openly bisexual governor in U.S. history.
On Thursday, Kitzhaber had ordered that thousands of his emails be destroyed. USA Today reported that the “Governor’s office wants anything that is in the email account [Kitzhaber’s account] removed from archive,” wrote Tracy Osburn, a field technician in the DAS Technology Support Center. The email was obtained by Willamette Week and 101.9 KINK/FM News 101 KXL.
A Department of Administrative Services spokesman confirmed the report that the governor’s office had asked that the governor’s personal emails be deleted from the archives. However, according to an AP story, the agency said it could not do that.
Both Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek had asked Kitzhaber to resign. Friday morning Courtney told ABC News that Kitzhaber “was upset… He was defiant. He’s struggling.”
Kitzhaber and Hayes first came under scrutiny in 2011 when the Oregon Department of Justice investigated a clean energy consulting contract awarded to Hayes for $60,000 under the Oregon Department of Energy, even though her firm, 3E Strategies, was the last in the bid for grant money. The investigation questioned whether favoritism played a role in Hayes getting the contract, KGW News reported.
Hayes was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. However, in January 2015, Hayes admitted that she received $118,000 for two years to work with a clean energy organization. Hayes failed to disclose this on her federal income tax return that she made public as Oregon’s first lady.
Hayes started dating Kitzhaber in 2003, after meeting him during her unsuccessful run for congress in 2002. When he won the gubernatorial race in 2010 for his third term—he was governor for two terms from 1995-2003—he referred to Hayes as his “first lady” and his “life partner.”
Hayes attracted attention in October, when the Oregonian reported that in 1997 Patrick Siemion, retired real estate broker, sold Cylvia Hayes and her then-boyfriend a 60-acre parcel in Washington. After the property went into foreclosure, the broker discovered marijuana trimmings in an upstairs bedroom. Hayes later stated that “the property in Okanogan was intended to be the site of a marijuana grow operation that never materialized. I was never financially involved with it. I did not pay any part of the down payment or mortgage payments.”
Siemion told the Oregonian that he laughed when Hayes said that the land was only “intended” to be the site of a marijuana operation. “She has gotten herself caught,” he said. “If she ‘intended’ it to be a marijuana grow, than why did we find cuttings all over the pool table where they were cutting it?”
Also in October, the Willamette Week reported that Hayes orchestrated a sham marriage with Abraham B. Abraham, an Ethiopian, in 1997 for $5,000 so he could get a green card. In a tearful press conference she admitted that she did it to mitigate the burden of college expenses. Hayes admitted she never lived with Abraham and they were divorced in 2002