Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is accepting a $20,000 civil penalty to settle the ethics case stemming from the scandal that forced him to resign three years ago.
The proposed settlement with the staff of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission will now go to the full commission for its consideration on Friday. The commission in November rejected a proposed $1,000 fine against Kitzhaber, saying it was too low.
In the proposed settlement, Kitzhaber agrees that he gave his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, opportunities to help shape state policy that also “allowed her to advance” her paid work as a clean energy consultant.
The former governor also accepted that he failed to declare potential conflicts of interest involving Hayes’ dual role as an adviser to him and as a consultant.
Kitzhaber has maintained that he did not knowingly violate any state ethics laws. The proposed settlement says it makes no finding about Kitzhaber’s intent but that such intent is “not a necessary element” of determining whether he violated the law.
The commission is entitled to issue fines totaling $50,000 for 10 violations — including one finding that he improperly accepted “Premier Platinum” travel status from United Airlines.
After the commission rejected the earlier agreement, its staff prepared a voluminous investigative report that the commission unanimously accepted. It found that Kitzhaber used his office for personal gain because he benefited from Hayes’ earnings.
Kitzhaber appeared at the February meeting of the commission and said he was concerned about the “assault on my integrity,” which he said “means more to me than you will ever know.”
But he did apologize to his family, staff, friends and “my fellow Oregonians.”
Hayes received about $200,000 in private income during Kitzhaber’s more than four years in office. The commission accepted a staff report on Hayes in January finding 22 violations on her part that could result in $110,000 in penalties.
A federal criminal probe of the two ended with no charges being filed.