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Longtime Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber says he will resign next Wednesday due to allegations of public corruption involving his fiancée.
Kitzhaber has been under fire since allegations began swirling that his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, improperly used her position as an energy policy adviser for personal gain by working with outside consulting groups. She’s also been accused of failing to disclose her income from consulting work.
"I understand that I have become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career and, indeed, my entire adult life. As a former presiding officer I fully understand the reasons for which I have been asked to resign," Kitzhaber said in a statement.
Both he and Hayes are now facing a criminal investigation. The governor’s fellow Democrats began calling for his resignation this week, and scrutiny intensified after another report Thursday that Kitzhaber’s office attempted to have his personal email records deleted.
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown will become governor once Kitzhaber steps down. She will become the nation's first openly bisexual governor.
The Oregonian reported Thursday that Kitzhaber had decided to resign earlier in the week but then reversed course suddenly after meeting with Hayes and his lawyer. Brown – who is now next in line for the job – put out a statement indicating that Kitzhaber had abruptly called her back from a conference in Washington, requesting a private in-person meeting with her, only to deny that he had made such a request the following day. Brown publicly called the episode “a bizarre and unprecedented situation.”
Kitzhaber was re-elected to a historic fourth term in November. Even then, embarrassing news reports about his fiancée had begun to surface.
In a tearful press conference last year, she confessed that she once received money for marrying an Ethiopian immigrant seeking legal status in the US. She was also previously involved in a plan to purchase land in Washington state in order to grow marijuana there.
-- Carrie Dann and Mark Murray