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Former Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes Files For Bankruptcy

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
Former Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes has filed for bankruptcy following a legal fight. She is seen here speaking in Bend in 2012 alongside former Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Following a stinging legal fight over public records with The Oregonian/OregonLive, and facing potentially steep ethics fines, Cylvia Hayes has filed for bankruptcy.

Hayes, the fiancee of former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, submitted the filing Tuesday, after revealing in a Facebook post in June that she would do so.

“In order to protect my home from the Oregonian, I will be filing for bankruptcy,” Hayes wrote at the time.

The bankruptcy filing has roots in an influence peddling scandal that embroiled Kitzhaber in 2014 and forced his resignation in February 2015, at the outset of an unprecedented fourth term as governor.

The scandal emanated from Hayes’ combined role as first lady and private consultant — she accepted money from businesses to help with policies for which she subsequently advocated as first lady.

Beyond toppling Kitzhaber’s political fortunes, the matter has led to two financial penalties for Hayes.

The first came when she sued The Oregonian/OregonLive to block a public records request. When she lost, Hayes was ordered to pay roughly $125,000 for the paper’s legal fees. She appealed that decision, but the newspaper put a lien on Hayes’ home in Bend. The Oregonian/OregonLive has written it did so to “preserve its place in line among her creditors.”

In her June 7 Facebook post on the topic, Hayes called the lien “an unprecedented move,” and said the paper was attempting to take away her home. The Oregonian/OregonLive posted a story taking issue with Hayes’ characterization.

Hayes’ second penalty came earlier this year, when the Oregon Government Ethics Commission found she violated ethics laws 22 times. She could face a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation, though a penalty hasn’t been hammered out.

Kitzhaber agreed to pay $20,000 in connection with violations from the scandal.

The filing doesn’t provide many details. It says she owes debts to between 1 and 49 creditors, and has assets worth between $100,001 and $500,000. Hayes filed under Chapter 13, which allows debtors to set up payment plans to repay all or part of their outstanding debt over the course of years.

Dirk VanderHart covers Oregon politics and government for OPB. Before barging onto the radio in 2018, he spent more than a decade as a newspaper reporter—much of that time reporting on city government for the Portland Mercury. He’s also had stints covering chicanery in Southwest Missouri, the wilds of Ohio in Ohio, and all things Texas on Capitol Hill.