Ex-Oregon governor's fiancée must release emails: judge

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 06, 2015 6:48 PM

By Shelby Sebens

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - An Oregon judge has ruled that ex-Governor John Kitzhaber's fiancée must release her private emails to the court amid an on-going influence-peddling scandal during which the former first lady has sought to keep her correspondence secret, state officials said on Thursday.

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Tracy Prall ordered Cylvia Hayes on Wednesday to turn over her emails in two weeks to the court, which will then determine which can be released.

Kitzhaber resigned in February amid federal corruption probes stemming from allegations Hayes used her role in his office for personal gain. He has denied any wrongdoing, and no charges have been brought in an ongoing federal investigation.

Hayes' fight to keep her emails private began in December when she refused to turn over emails to the Oregonian newspaper after it made a request through a public records disclosure law.

Hayes sued the paper, arguing she is not a public official despite her previous role as an unpaid adviser in the governor's office. In April, she was denied a request to have state funds pay her legal bills.

Judge Prall sided with the newspaper in ordering the release of the emails, saying in the order that Hayes "interjected herself into high-level policy matters" and that Kitzhaber's staff regarded her as a senior level policy advisor.

"The Governor himself confirmed her authority when he directed his chief of staff to ensure that plaintiff had a role in defining and developing his policy around the clean economy initiative," Prall said in the order. 

Hayes' attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has already released 94,000 emails between Hayes and state officials.

One of those emails contained a memo in which Kitzhaber told staff that state energy policies should match those his fiancée was being paid to promote for an outside group, according to the Oregonian.

In a memo to staff, Kitzhaber wrote that his fiancée, Hayes, ought to play the same role, as a spokesperson and advocate for his office, as she does as a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Clean Economy Development Center.

(Reporting by Shelby Sebens in Portland, Oregon; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Sandra Maler)