Oregon police probing leaks of embattled ex-governor's emails

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 23, 2015 5:54 PM

By Shelby Sebens

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Oregon State Police are investigating the leak of personal emails of embattled former Governor John Kitzhaber, and two employees for the agency that was archiving the emails have been placed on administrative leave, state officials said on Monday. 

Kitzhaber resigned last week amid state and federal criminal probes into an influence-peddling scandal involving allegations that his fiancée used her unpaid position in the governor’s office for personal financial gain. 

"Oregon State Police is investigating the recent information security breach,” Matt Shelby, spokesman for Oregon Chief Operating Officer Michael Jordan, said in a statement, adding that Jordan requested the criminal investigation last week.

Meanwhile, two employees for Enterprise Technology Services, the state agency in charge of archiving the emails, have been placed on paid administrative leave pending a personnel review, Shelby said, declining to give further details.

Officials with newly sworn-in Governor Kate Brown’s office said they could not comment on pending investigations or personnel matters. 

The leak probe is related to a report last week by the Willamette Week newspaper that newly obtained emails revealed Kitzhaber’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, had planned to leverage her position in the governor’s office for work.

Kitzhaber's emails also revealed a strategy to halt an ongoing ethics investigation into the allegations surrounding his fiancée, according to several media reports. 

Kitzhaber, who had been elected in November to an unprecedented fourth term, has denied wrongdoing but agreed last week to resign following pressure from prominent Democrats who were once his strong allies.

The leak investigation comes as state officials gather records and information related to Kitzhaber and Hayes in response to U.S. Department of Justice subpoenas related to the federal grand jury probe.  

The U.S. Department of Justice issued subpoenas to several state agencies hours after Kitzhaber resigned, seeking a slew of information on the former governor’s policies as well as his fiancée's tax returns and information related to her role in state government. The subpoenas also request information from Kitzhaber's emails. 

On Friday, Kitzhaber had asked the Attorney General to investigate whether his personal emails on state computers were "criminally accessed" and released to the press, according to a letter from Kitzhaber's criminal attorney Janet Hoffman. Hayes is also trying to fight the release of her emails.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)