The Oregon Government Ethics Commission has ruled that former Gov. John Kitzhaber's fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, committed 22 violations of state ethics laws by using her position in his administration to advance her consulting work. Kitzhaber's culpability remains to be determined, but it doesn't look good for the state's longest-serving governor who resigned three years ago.
What consequences Hayes will face remain to be decided. But the findings should serve as warning to present and future officeholders that Oregon will not tolerate officials who use their positions for personal gain.
The Ethics Commission determined that Hayes used her position as first lady and a policy adviser to the governor to solicit and obtain funding for her advocacy work on clean energy projects and other environmental and economic policy. Hayes earned $200,000 during Kitzhaber's third term, work the commission said she obtained only because of her access to the governor and his staff and her status as first lady.
Commission Chairwoman Alison R. Kean said Kitzhaber should be held to "a much higher standard" than Hayes because he was elected. Hayes could face fines of more than $100,000 in addition to being ordered to forfeit money she earned from private interests.
Oregon has long prided itself on a lack of corruption in state government. These findings indicate a failure on Kitzhaber's part to recognize the conflict between Hayes' private work and her public role in his administration. The commission should make it clear that such conduct will not be tolerated.