By GENE H. McINTYRE
It’s a big stretch to believe that former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and his partner, Cylvia Hayes, did not use their public positions for profit and only inadvertently failed to disclose conflicts of interest and inappropriately accepted gifts. Kitzhaber, now wandering about the land as though he’s done nothing wrong, even reluctantly admits he violated state ethics laws but without intent.
He stands by his pleas of ignorance and multiple unintentionals so much so that any Oregonian who’s been around this state for the years he was in the legislature and governor’s office can only wonder at how, he, a man who matriculated successfully through education and training to become a medical doctor, could have achieved such notable success, and served in Oregon’s highest political office, but learned nothing much about Oregon law and professional ethics.
While the facts stack up against Kitzhaber, it would appear that he has done his best at trying to weasel out of any financial consequence for all the waywardness he’s accused of causing, resulting in a wrist slap $1,000 fine to resolve the complaints against him. Now, then, those with grit enough to stand up to this guy as the Oregon Government Ethics Commission recently voted 7 to 1 to deny him that ridiculous settlement Kitzhaber thinks is equal to his unlawful behavior.
His partner, Cylvia Hayes, is generally believed to have contributed her fair share to Kitzhaber shameful condition. She, of worse-than-just-shady past behaviors apparently tried and succeeded to shape and influence state policy to her suspected financial benefit in amounts of tens of thousands of dollars while obviously and deftly manipulating the governor. Ugly as it was, she also threw her weight against state employees who questioned her tactics and practices, resulting in Kitzhaber’s terminating them without cause. Whatever her efforts at dodging guilt, she was and should continue to be held to state ethics law.
But let’s recall some of the other presumed taxpayer costs that arguably can be attributed to Kitzhaber with possible help from Sylvia Hayes. How about the Seattle-based energy consultant, and the state employee he’s accused of bribing, that became charges of corruption at the Department of Energy. One rogue employee there enabled consultant Martin Shain to acquire $12 million in green energy tax credits for solar projects that should have failed to qualify for them. It has been widely reported that the DOE was a virtual cauldron of corruption with several former employees who walked away without being charged with complicity. Meanwhile, this question festers: Where was Kitzhaber when this economic disaster was underway and what personally did he gain?
Then, also, what’s viewed as the Port of Portland fiasco where things went from thriving there to sick, dying and dead. The Oregonian reported by the numbers there that 53 percent of containerized Oregon exports flowed through the Port of Portland in 2014; today, December, 2017, zero percent of containerized Oregon exports are handled there. That means that there is now a $400- to $450-per container increase in transportation costs for most Oregon shippers after the Hanjin company departed and we Oregonians pay for it by added consumer costs. A $15.1 million added annual cost must be absorbed after the loss of Terminal 6. Was it not Kitzhaber’s pal, former chief of staff and political crony, Bill Wyatt, former Port of Portland director, now conveniently, and most likely wealthy, in retirement? So, again, where was Kitzhaber when this economic disaster was underway and what might he have pocketed from it?
Adding to the list of Kitzhaber wreckage during his tenure, 2011 was a fateful year for Oregon public education as the former governor pushed through monumental changes to Oregon’s K-12 grades. He persuaded lawmakers into a replacement for the elected state superintendent of public instruction with an education czar appointed by and reporting to him. That czar was Rudy Crew, who, at the time of his appointment, was the second-highest paid state employee at a salary of $280,000. Oregon taxpayers learned later that Kitzhaber managed little oversight over Crew who billed the state for thousands of dollars in personal travel expenses, took six weeks of paid vacation, traveled by first-class plane ticket to honor a pal in Santa Fe and attended a special course in Los Angeles. A best guess regarding Crew was that he cost Oregon’s taxpayers an amount possibly exceeding $1,000,000 while accomplishing nothing for the state’s schools.
So, here we are today, Kitzhaber running around the state presumably collecting large speaker and consulting fees while he ought to be at least responsible for returning to the Oregon treasury a whole lot more than a $1,000 fine—and that goes for his partner, too. Guess work surmised that Kitzhaber has been cashing in on political debts and probably hopeful, too, that he can reclaim his power and big money accessibility with partner Hayes at his side. The least the Oregon Government Ethics Commission can do is to hit this guy in the pocket book—like he hit me and tens of thousands like me through our taxes—starting at $100,000 and going stratospheric from there.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in .)