SALEM, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Kristen Leonard has resigned as Gov. Kate Brown’s chief of staff after 14 months on the job.
The resignation, effective January 31 follows a series of articles by Willamette Week revealing that Leonard had failed to disclose at least two conflicts of interest, as required by state ethics law.
Chris Pair, the governor’s interim communications director, said the resignation was “a mutual decision” unrelated to the alt-weekly’s revelations.
“Her condition for accepting the job as chief of staff was always to serve for one year,” Pair said. “She extended that service (at Gov. Brown’s request) to ensure the completion of the budget and through the Governor’s inauguration.”
The governor praised Leonard Tuesday for her service.
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“Kristen was instrumental in building an exceptional team of agency heads, board commissioners, and key administrators,” Brown said. “During her tenure we increased Oregon’s minimum wage, advanced important environmental initiatives, and delivered a budget that protects Oregon’s K-12 schools despite a nearly $2 billion shortfall. Kristen executed this job with integrity and distinction, and I am grateful for her dedicated service.”
WW reported in October that Leonard and her husband, Kevin Neely, had a stake in a bookkeeping firm that worked for Brown’s election campaign. Two months later, the newspaper revealed that Leonard had failed to disclose two conflicts of interest: Neely’s software company had a $214,000 contract with the state that was up for renewal and Neely works as a lobbyist for the Oregon District Attorney’s Association. She later disclosed her conflicts in writing, the newspaper reported.
Leonard was hired to replace Brown’s first chief of staff, Brian Shipley. Brown recruited Leonard from her job as public affairs director at the Port of Portland. When she took the position in November 2015, the Port Executive Director Bill Wyatt wrote in an email to staff that Leonard’s was going “on official leave” and had accepted a “limited-duration assignment,” according to reports by The Oregonian at the time.
“This has been the most rewarding job of my career; yet also the most demanding,” Leonard wrote in herresignation letter . “In line with our initial discussion upon accepting this position, I must now return to the obligations that I put on hold to serve in your administration.”