Incoming Oregon governor will talk about restoring trust

AP News
Posted: Feb 17, 2015 8:00 PM
Incoming Oregon governor will talk about restoring trust

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's incoming governor, Kate Brown, plans to call for efforts to restore trust in government when she rises to the state's top job following an ethics scandal that prompted the resignation of John Kitzhaber.

Brown, currently the secretary of state, is being thrust ahead with little notice. She'll be sworn in Wednesday in front of a joint session of the state Legislature. After taking the oath, she'll give a speech that will mark her first public discussion about her goals as governor.

"She'll lay out a series of immediate reforms needed to restore the public's trust in government," Brown's office said Tuesday. "And she'll speak to her bipartisan approach to helping Oregon's working families make ends meet."

Brown, like Kitzhaber, is a Democrat.

Kitzhaber's fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, has been accused of using her relationship with the governor to land work for her consulting firm. State and federal authorities have opened investigations. Kitzhaber has denied wrongdoing on both of their parts.

With time running short on Kitzhaber's term, lawyers for a death row inmate renewed a request for clemency. The lawyers from the federal public defender's office said Mark Pinnell, 66, has been weakened by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and relies on an inmate helper, a wheelchair, an oxygen machine and a variety of medications.

The lawyers also said Pinnell's sentence was far harsher than that of his co-defendant, who was released in 2011 after 26 years in prison.

Pinnell and Donald Cornell were convicted of the 1985 killing of John Ruffner, who was tied up and died of suffocation.

"Mark's case is a perfect example of how uneven and arbitrary the death penalty can be, and underscores the governor's longstanding concerns about such an irreversible penalty," the lawyers wrote in a notice to the media.

Kitzhaber issued a moratorium on the death penalty in 2011, saying he believes the death penalty is immoral and applied inconsistently. Death penalty opponents are urging him to commute the death sentences of all death row inmates before he leaves office.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Senate handed Kitzhaber his final legislative victory Tuesday, his last full day in office, when Democrats passed a bill aimed at combating climate change. The measure was one of Kitzhaber's biggest priorities, but it was the source of a rare defeat two years ago when he was unable to muscle it through the Senate.