The Oregon Government Ethics Commission has voted to accept a settlement with former Gov. John Kitzhaber that requires him to pay a $20,000 fine for violating state ethics laws.
Kitzhaber attended Friday’s meeting in Salem and expressed regret for his mistakes, The Statesman Journal reported.
“I did violate several provisions of Oregon’s ethics laws,” Kitzhaber said. “As governor it was my responsibility … to ensure these questions of ambiguity were referred to the commission.”
Kitzhaber, a Democrat, resigned in 2015 amid allegations that fiancée Cylvia Hayes used their relationship to win contracts for her consulting business. Hayes had a role as an unpaid adviser in the governor’s office and was privately paid to consult on the same issues.
No criminal charges were filed, but the ethics panel determined Kitzhaber violated rules against conflicts of interest, limiting gifts to public officials to $50 and using the office for private gain. The commission also found that Kitzhaber had no intent to violate ethics laws.
“I erred, and I assume full responsibility for it,” Kitzhaber said.
Kitzhaber faced a maximum fine of $50,000, but ethics cases are often negotiated for reduced settlements.
Commissioner David Fiskum said the settlement ends a sad chapter in Oregon’s history.
But Commissioner Richard Burke said the settlement allows the Ethics Commission to give Oregonians another reason to believe in their government.
“We will show the people of Oregon and public officials that ethics laws do mean something,” Burke said.
In January, the Ethics Commission found that Hayes committed 22 ethics violations during her time as first lady. In addition to the maximum per violation fine of $5,000, the commission could require Hayes to forfeit up to twice the amount she earned from contracts received because of her access to top government officials. The commission report noted that she claims that because she was not a public official she is not subject to its discipline.
At the time, commissioners said they would be unwilling to accept a settlement for much less than the maximum amount.