SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The allegations swirling around Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber all arise from his fiancee, who met Kitzhaber in 2002 after enduring a rough-and-tumble life.
Cylvia Hayes told The Oregonian in a 2011 profile that she grew up in a ramshackle house near Seattle and left home at 16, staying with friends until she finished high school.
By the time she was 29, she was a twice-divorced graduate student at Evergreen State College. She supported herself in part with the proceeds of an illegal sham marriage to an Ethiopian immigrant in 1997 while plotting with a boyfriend to grow marijuana.
Last year, she acknowledged buying property in rural Washington state for the pot scheme but said the grow effort never materialized.
In 1998, while trying to escape a relationship she described as abusive, she went to her boyfriend’s house carrying a stun gun. He beat her with it, according to court records. Hayes packed up her belongings and moved to central Oregon, living in a tent on federal land while finishing her thesis, according to the Oregonian profile.
She set up an environmental nonprofit and got involved in politics, meeting influential people, and in 2002 was the Democratic nominee for a legislative district in Bend. She met Kitzhaber in the waning days of his second term as governor when he campaigned for her.
Hayes lost her race. Kitzhaber left office at the beginning of 2003 and announced days later that he and his wife were divorcing. Later, he and Hayes reconnected, and their relationship became romantic despite a 20-year age difference. He is 67. She is 47.
In 2010, after eight years out of office, Kitzhaber made a successful comeback bid and became Oregon’s only governor to serve more than two terms. At his side was Hayes, who moved with him to the governor’s mansion in Salem.
Hayes took an active role in Kitzhaber’s administration. She used the title “first lady,” though the two have never married, and ran public initiatives targeting poverty and hunger. Privately, she was a frequent presence at meetings.
Kitzhaber has said he and Hayes took steps to avoid conflicts of interest. A fiercely private person, the governor has been forced to answer embarrassing and personal questions about his relationship. At a news conference last month, he told reporters that he’s in love with Hayes, but he’s not blinded by it.
Also Thursday, a spokesman for the Department of Administrative Services, which maintains the state email archives, confirmed a newspaper report that the governor’s office had asked that Kitzhaber’s personal emails be deleted from the archives.
Matt Shelby said the agency had discovered Kitzhaber’s personal emails were being mistakenly forwarded to the server and then informed Kitzhaber’s office. He said the governor’s office asked that personal emails be deleted from the server, and the agency said it could not do that. He said the governor’s office is going through the emails to determine which are public records under Oregon law.
Some key events leading to this point:
OCT. 8 — The Willamette Week newspaper reports that the governor’s fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, used taxpayer resources to aid her green-energy consulting business.
OCT. 9 — Hayes tearfully admits to a newspaper report that in 1997 she was paid $5,000 to marry an 18-year-old Ethiopian immigrant seeking to stay in the United States. Because the statute of limitations had passed, she is not prosecuted. When she told Kitzhaber about the marriage, “he was stunned and he was hurt,” Hayes says. “And I will be eternally grateful for the beautiful, loving way he has supported me in this.”
OCT. 13 — Hayes acknowledges that in the same year as the marriage, she purchased property in Washington state intended to be used for a marijuana-growing operation but denies participating financially, saying that the scheme “never materialized.” The man who sold the property says he found evidence that it did. Washington has since legalized medical and recreational marijuana, but the drug was illegal there in 1997.
OCT. 23 — Republican gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson calls for the U.S. attorney to investigate whether Hayes’ consulting work violated the law.
NOV. 7 — The Oregon Government Ethics Commission opens a preliminary investigation into Hayes’ consulting work, based on complaints filed by Republicans.
JAN. 13 — The governor and Hayes announce they have hired lawyers to represent them in the investigation.
JAN. 30 — Kitzhaber says he will not resign but acknowledges legitimate questions have been raised. He adds that Hayes will have no future role in his administration. The governor says he still loves Hayes, who was in Europe visiting friends.
FEB. 4 — The editorial board of The Oregonian, the state’s largest newspaper, calls for Kitzhaber to resign, writing that the governor “has broken faith with Oregonians” and can no longer effectively lead the state.
FEB. 6 — Kitzhaber’s office releases public records confirming that he fired his former communications director after she criticized Hayes at a staff meeting.
FEB. 9 — Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum says she has launched a criminal investigation.
FEB. 11 — Secretary of State Kate Brown, next in line to become governor if Kitzhaber resigns, abruptly returns from a conference in Washington, D.C., fueling speculation that Kitzhaber is about to step down. Kitzhaber issues a statement saying he has no intention of doing so.
FEB. 12 — The Senate president and House speaker, both Democrats, urge Kitzhaber to resign, saying the growing scandal leaves him unable to lead. State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, also a Democrat, says he cannot imagine things getting any better.