After a series of allegations regarding his ethical conduct and after a flurry of media critique that followed, John Kitzhaber announced on Friday, Feb. 13 that he would be stepping down from his position as governor of the state of Oregon.
Concerns about Kitzhaber first arose in October, when his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, was found to have use taxpayer resources to aid her consulting business. She was also charged guilty for taking part in a sham marriage with an 18-year-old Ethiopian immigrant in 1997, allowing the immigrant to obtain U.S. citizenship; Hayes, in turn, was paid $5,000. Within the same month, it was discovered that she purchased property in Washington state intended to be used for a marijuana-growing operation, though she claims the plan “never materialized.” On Nov. 7, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission opened a preliminary investigation to determine whether Hayes’ consulting work was violating the law.
The scandal continued to escalate, and Kitzhaber was soon brought directly into the conflict when he was found to be enabling Hayes in both her public and private positions. An email between Kitzhaber and Hayes’ personal email accounts revealed a detailed four-year plan outlined by Hayes, titled “Cylvia Game Plan Dec. 2013 – Dec. 2018,” which exposed her intentions to “build my policy and professional credibility and desirability so that I land lucrative work making big positive impacts at end of term.” Hayes clearly expected nothing less than full cooperation from Kitzhaber, who was to “develop a specific message about [her] substantive roles,” as noted in the multi-year agenda.
This incident proved to be disastrous to Kitzhaber’s career. The highly contested debate around the influence-peddling scandal made many Oregonians skeptical of his credibility. Initially, Kitzhaber remained steadfast in his motive to retain his position as governor. However, his sudden request of Secretary of State Kate Brown to rush back from a conference in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 10 sparked rampant speculation that Kitzhaber had finally concluded on resigning. Despite such rumors, Kitzhaber was insistent that he never planned on following through with the resignation.
“Let me be as clear as I was last week, that I have no intention of resigning as governor of the state of Oregon,” he said in a prepared statement on Feb. 12, 2015. “I was elected to do a job for the people of this great state, and I intend to continue to do so.”
On Friday, Feb. 13, Oregonians were shocked when news broke that Kitzhaber, the only person in Oregon’s history to be elected governor four times, had officially resigned.
“I understand that I have become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career,”
As of Wednesday, Feb. 18, Kate Brown has been serving as the governor of Oregon. She will remain in office until the general election in 2016.