New Oregon governor takes office with ethics pledge

AP News
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Posted: Feb 19, 2015 3:52 AM
New Oregon governor takes office with ethics pledge

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Kate Brown became Oregon's governor with a pledge not to accept money from outside sources and to ensure anyone who pays her family and staff does not have business before the state of Oregon.

Brown took the oath of office in a short ceremony at the state Capitol Wednesday. The Democrat, who was formerly the secretary of state, becomes the first openly bisexual governor in the nation.

Brown replaces fellow Democrat John Kitzhaber, who was Oregon's longest-serving chief executive before his swift fall from grace in an ethics scandal that culminated with his announcement Friday that he'd step down.

In a speech to the Legislature after her swearing-in, Brown praised Kitzhaber for his contributions but also said "we must restore the public's trust."

"There is a great deal of work ahead of us, and I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get to it," she said in a brief address.

Meanwhile, Kitzhaber, in one of his final acts as governor, commuted the prison sentence of a young inmate who's serving a 12-year sentence for attempted murder and other charges.

The commutation document doesn't reveal why Kitzhaber decided to release Sang Dao, 25, more than three years before his earliest possible release date. The Multnomah County District Attorney, whose office prosecuted Dao, supported the clemency, noting that Dao had turned his life around and earned a bachelor's degree while locked up.

Last summer Kitzhaber's fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, who's at the center of the ethics scandal that prompted the governor to step down, spoke at a graduation ceremony for Dao and others at a youth correctional facility, according to a report in the Woodburn Independent.

Hayes faces allegations that she used her relationship to enrich herself.

Kitzhaber, who didn't attend the inauguration, has denied wrongdoing and has consistently maintained that he and Hayes worked hard to avoid conflicts between her public and private roles. He did not immediately respond to an email asking why he'd decided to commute Dao's sentence.

Unlike most states, Oregon has no lieutenant governor. Under the state constitution, the secretary of state takes over if a governor steps down or dies.

Brown, 54, was born in Spain, raised in Minnesota and came to Oregon to attend law school in Portland, the state's largest city, and established a family law practice before her first run for the Legislature.

Brown addressed the scandal surrounding Kitzhaber after taking the oath of office, saying "Oregon has been in the national news for all the wrong reasons. That changes starting today."

She called on lawmakers to pass "meaningful legislation" to strengthen the state ethics commission and require timely release of public records. She pledged not to accept outside compensation while she's governor and said the members of her household and her staff would not be allowed to seek compensation "for any work related to the business of the state of Oregon."

"That simply will not happen," she said.

After her speech, former Govs. Barbara Roberts and Ted Kulongoski escorted Brown a short distance to her new office.

Brown's term will last two years. The state constitution calls for a special election that will come in November 2016. She hasn't said whether she plans to run.

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Follow Jonathan J. Cooper at http://twitter.com/jjcooper