State leaders call on Oregon’s governor to resign
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Oregon state police gathered outside Gov. John Kitzhaber’s house on Thursday afternoon as he faced mounting calls to resign, over a scandal concerning his fiancee’s consulting and policy work took.
Kitzhaber has been under criminal investigation by the state attorney general. The Oregon attorney general’s office declined to comment on the growing police presence outside his home, which local press chronicled on Twitter.
But the troopers were an ominous development in a day filled with bad news for the governor. Oregon state legislative leaders reportedly met with him to ask for him to step down, and his chief of staff and legislative liaison reportedly resigned.
The exodus of support capped off a week in which Kitzhaber reportedly decided to resign himself — before changing his mind.
According to the Oregonian, the Democrat had decided to resign by Tuesday, and began meeting with state legislative leaders to discuss his legacy in Oregon, going so far as to call Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown — his successor — home from a conference in Washington.
But sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, Kitzhaber changed his mind, and his office released a statement around 2:40 p.m. on Wednesday quashing the speculation and affirming his commitment to stay in office.
Kitzhaber has been dogged by reports revealing his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, advised state employees on energy policy while getting paid by a group advocating for a specific position. The Oregonian has called for him to resign, and he’s facing both a recall effort and a criminal investigation by the state attorney general.
A spokeswoman for the Oregon Attorney General did not respond to a request for comment on the police presence.
His apparent flip-flop on whether to resign drew further scrutiny to the scandal.
Brown’s version of events, which she outlined in a statement, backs up the Oregonian’s report. She said she got a call from Kitzhaber late Tuesday afternoon asking her to return to Oregon from Washington “as soon as possible to speak with him in person and alone.”
When she returned, late Wednesday afternoon, Brown said things had changed.
“I was escorted directly into a meeting with the governor. It was a brief meeting. He asked me why I came back early from Washington, D.C., which I found strange,” she recounted in her release. “I asked him what he wanted to talk about. The governor told me he was not resigning, after which he began a discussion about transition.”
Brown added: “This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation.”
She said she told the governor she and her staff would be ready if he resigns — and there are mounting calls for him to do just that.
On Thursday, state Treasurer Ted Wheeler became the first Oregon elected official to call for Kitzhaber to step down.
In a statement, Wheeler said the governor “has accomplished many great things during his long career, and history will be kinder to him than current events suggest.”
“Unfortunately, the current situation has become untenable, and I cannot imagine any scenario by which things improve. Oregon deserves a Governor who is fully focused on the duties of state,” Wheeler said.