Lawsuits keep alive scandals surrounding ex-governor

AP News
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Posted: Feb 26, 2015 7:36 PM
Lawsuits keep alive scandals surrounding ex-governor

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's former first lady, Cylvia Hayes — at the center of an ethics scandal that forced the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber — has launched a legal fight to keep her private emails out of the public eye.

The lawsuit came to light Thursday, the same day that Oracle Inc., the tech giant that built Oregon's botched health insurance exchange, filed a lawsuit against several of Kitzhaber's former campaign advisers. The company accuses Kitzhaber's advisers of orchestrating the abandonment of the Cover Oregon website to help his re-election effort. Oracle also served notice that it may sue Kitzhaber and his former chief of staff.

The flurry of lawsuits keeps alive two controversies that weighed on Oregon's once-popular governor.

Hayes, who is engaged to marry the former Democratic governor, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against The Oregonian asking a judge to rule that she is not required to turn over her emails to the newspaper.

She's resisting an order from the state Department of Justice that says emails from her private email accounts that concern state business must be provided to The Oregonian, which requested them under the state's public records law. The Oregonian, based in Portland, is the state's largest newspaper.

The fate of emails in private accounts belonging to Kitzhaber and Hayes has been a point of contention since the governor resigned last week. He bowed to pressure following months of news reports alleging Hayes used her relationship with Kitzhaber to land clients for her consulting business.

State and federal authorities have launched criminal investigations. A wide-ranging federal subpoena served on the state this month seeks, among other things, Hayes' and Kitzhaber's emails on a variety of topics.

Kitzhaber has said repeatedly that the couple did nothing wrong.

Hayes' lawyer, Whitney Boise, says in the lawsuit that public records laws don't apply to Hayes, who was not a paid employee of the state, and releasing them would violate her privacy. He also argues disclosing the emails would require Hayes to admit that they exist and that they relate to state business, which he says would violate her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

"Ms. Hayes' constitutional rights supersede the Oregon Public Records Law," Boise wrote.

Meanwhile, Oracle's lawsuit says that, despite initial failures, the Cover Oregon website could have fully launched in early 2014. It didn't launch, the company says, because consultants with Kitzhaber's 2014 re-election campaign manipulated the state to shut down the exchange.

The company says this was done to protect Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor who prided himself on health care issues, from political fallout from Cover Oregon's initial failures.

State officials have maintained that the Oracle software was still plagued with problems when they decided to pull the plug. The state officially ditched the Cover Oregon portal last spring and switched to the federal website, HealthCare.Gov.

Oregon and Oracle have been battling in court for months over the Cover Oregon failure, with each filing multiple lawsuits against the other.