Gov. John Kitzhaber said his fiancee Cylvia Hayes will no longer have a policy or political role, nor do any contract work through her private consulting firm for the state of Oregon during his final term as governor.
Kitzhaber addressed the media Friday morning, making a short statement before answering questions regarding Hayes’ involvement in state policy during his time as governor.
He said legitimate questions have been raised about Hayes, who has been accused of using her public position as leverage for her business.
“These issues have become such a distraction that I want to make it very very clear that she will have no policy role and no political role in the administration during the remaining four years of my term.”
New questions about Hayes’ finances surfaced this week, after she confirmed she’d collected more than $100,000 for consulting work during the first two years of Kitzhaber’s third term. Allegedly, she also did not list income in her 2012 tax filings.
“Clearly,” said Kitzhaber, “those are very serious allegations and apply specifically to her tax returns.”
He also said: “Cylvia and I file separate tax returns. I have not reviewed, or did not prepare, and cannot answer questions concerning her tax returns and those questions need to be directed specifically to Cylvia.”
Hayes has called herself Kitzhaber’s clean energy and economic development adviser while she also served as CEO of her consulting firm, 3E Strategies. Kitzhaber repeatedly said the Oregon Government Ethics Commission — which is looking into allegations against the pair — will run its course, and he will accept any penalties or recommendations following the investigation.
The governor also denied that he should have disclosed some of Hayes’ income on state ethics forms. He says the disclosure isn’t required because the firms involved have no legislative interest in Oregon.
Speaking on OPB’s Think Out Loud, political analyst Jim Moore says Hayes’s problems are cutting into the governor’s political capital: “John Kitzhaber is as weak as he ever has been in his three terms as governor.”
The governor deflected questions about whether Hayes’ work constituted a conflict of interest, saying the state ethics commission will decide.
He said he has no plans to step down as governor.
Hayes is traveling through Europe this week, and hasn’t planned any media appearances linked to the latest questions surrounding her role as first lady.
“She is an independent woman, and she is not an employee of the state of Oregon,” said Kitzhaber. “I can’t make her appear to the press if she doesn’t want to.”
As the East Oregonian reported this week, Hayes was paid $118,000 for communications work for a clean energy consulting firm while she was advising the governor’s office on similar issues during the first two years of Kitzhaber’s third term — more potential evidence of overlap between the Oregon first lady’s public and private roles.
Kitzhaber has pushed for clean fuel standards in Oregon in the past, and the issue has come up as a potential priority in the Legislature this year.
Despite the potential conflict of interest, the governor said his office has always been clear-headed in its efforts to separate Hayes’ private business from her public role as first lady.
“I’m in love, I do not believe that I was blinded,” he said.
Kitzhaber said he has not been contacted by any law enforcement agency but if he is, he’ll cooperate fully.