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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Kitzhaber Agrees To $1,000 Civil Ethics Penalty

Oregon Department of Transportation
Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has agreed to pay a $1,000 civil penalty to the state of Oregon for ethics violations.

Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has agreed to pay a $1,000 civil penalty to the state of Oregon for ethics violations. Kitzhaber agreed to the penalty after a review by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.

The Commission found the governor violated state ethics laws on at least four separate occasions. Kitzhaber resigned in 2015 amid a federal investigation, but no federal or state criminal charges were filed. The civil fine represents the only penalty facing the Democrat, who stepped down just weeks into an unprecedented fourth term as Oregon governor.

Kitzhaber signed the “Stipulated Final Order” from the Ethics Commission on November 7. It will be presented to commissioners for possible approval at their meeting on Friday, Nov. 17.

Ethics Commission Executive Director Ron Bersin said he negotiated the penalty, which he characterized as being “higher than usual” for a first-time offender. The $1,000 amount represents five percent of the total fine allowed by state law for the four violations.

Bersin said first-time offenders typically pay one or two percent of the allowable penalty.

The seven-page document states that Kitzhaber had a financial interest in a consulting firm called 3E Strategies owned by his partner, Cylvia Hayes. It says that in 2011, the year he took office for his third term as governor, Kitzhaber failed to publicly declare a potential conflict of interest “when making policy decisions and public appearances in his official capacity as Governor of Oregon, where those policies and appearances overlapped with the issues for which 3E Strategies was receiving payment.”

In the agreement, Kitzhaber contended that he “failed to perceive the potential conflicts of interest” because he understood Hayes to be “an educator and storyteller” rather than someone who was attempting to influence public policy. Kitzhaber also said he conferred with the governor’s legal counsel and that “he was not advised that any of his policy decisions or public appearances presented conflicts of interest arising from 3E Strategies’ sources of income.”

The document states that Kitzhaber failed to disclose a conflict of interest for similar reasons in 2012 and 2013. It also states that the governor received frequent flier miles when traveling on official business during his time in office, and that accepting those miles was a violation of state ethics laws.

By signing the document, Kitzhaber agreed to waive his right to a contested case hearing.

Bersin said he does not expect Kitzhaber to appear at the commission’s meeting on Friday, but that his attorneys would be given a chance to speak at the meeting.