The Latest: Oregon governor passes ethics reforms

The new reforms bar governors’ partners from using their position for personal gain.

  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

Given Oregon’s green reputation, it’s fitting that the scandal that prematurely ended Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber’s fourth term involved environmental issues (“Governor down,” HCN, 3/16/15). Starting last fall, newspaper investigations revealed that Kitzhaber’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, a clean economy consultant, had landed at least $213,000 in contracts from groups with progressive social and environmental agendas. Hayes, however, also promoted similar agendas directly to the governor as an unpaid policy advisor and used her “First Lady” title for public speaking engagements that were part of her consulting contracts. The extent of Kitzhaber’s involvement remains uncertain, but he resigned in February amid allegations of influence peddling.

On July 1, new Gov. Kate Brown finalized ethics reforms that clearly define the “First Partner” as a public official, legally forbidden from using the position for personal gain. The new laws strengthen penalties for abuse of office, bar statewide elected officials from accepting paid speaking engagements and expand the state ethics commission. A review of the state’s public records practices will also begin.

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