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Kitzhaber agrees to settle ethics probe

The former governor and first lady Cylvia Hayes were investigated by the Oregon Ethics Commission for accusations that they used their public offices for profit.

NICK BUDNICK/PORTLAND TRIBUNE - Former Gov. John KitzhaberSALEM — Former Gov. John Kitzhaber has agreed to pay $1,000 to settle an ethics complaint related to accusations he and first lady Cylvia Hayes used their public offices for profit, had conflicts of interest and inappropriately accepted gifts.

The Oregon Ethics Commission is scheduled to consider the settlement agreement Friday in Salem.

"Dr. Kitzhaber, through his attorney, indicated that he wishes to conclude this matter by agreeing to the terms and conditions in this order without completing the investigation phase," the order states.

The settlement would not have an impact on a pending ethics investigation into the former first lady.

Ron Bersin, ethics commission executive director, was not immediately available for comment as of noon Wednesday on his staff's recommendation to approve the settlement.

The agreement asserts that Kitzhaber violated Oregon law by benefiting from frequent flier miles he accrued from state travel between 2011 and 2013 and failed to disclose his conflicts of interest related to Hayes' consulting company in 2013.

The company, 3E Strategies, received paid consulting contracts from 2011 to 2013.

Kitzhaber argued that he received advice from his attorney that he did not need to disclose a conflict of interest because the consulting company did not shape state policy.

On Wednesday, Kitzhaber wrote on his Facebook page: "I am I glad to say this episode in my life is finally over."

He promised to post a more complete story of the events of the past couple of years in "the near future."

The commission voted unanimously in July to pursue an official investigation of the former governor and his fiancée.

The agency in February 2015 had suspended a preliminary review of three complaints of alleged ethics violations against the couple, triggered by pending state and federal investigations.

Kitzhaber and Hayes had been under criminal investigation for more than two years after Willamette Week reported the first lady may have used her position to win several consulting contracts. The scandal eventually prompted Kitzhaber to resign from office in February 2015.

The commission resumed the ethics review in late June after the U.S. Attorney's Office announced no criminal charges would be filed against the couple. The state Department of Justice abandoned its investigation of the couple because its statute of limitation had expired during the federal probe.

Under commission rules, ethics investigators must conduct a preliminary review to determine whether to launch a full investigation.

Even though Hayes was an unpaid adviser in Kitzhaber's office, she and other volunteers are still subject to state ethics law.

Disclosures at the time showed Hayes used a desk, office and computers at the Capitol, according to a report by The Oregonian. Complaints further state that Hayes filed expenses with the state, advised on energy policy related to her environmental consulting business, and had staff from the governor's office make her travel arrangements. She benefited from receiving consulting contracts as a result of her public office, according to the October 2014 complaint. An Oregon Business Council grant paid $35,000 to give Hayes her own spokesperson while Kitzhaber was promoting the council's interest in the Oregon Business Plan, the complaint states.

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