By Associated Press • 

Kate Brown: Meeting with governor 'strange'

Gov. John Kitzhaber, left, and Secretary of State Kate Brown
Gov. John Kitzhaber, left, and Secretary of State Kate Brown

SALEM - Oregon's secretary of state said Thursday she had a private conversation with embattled Gov. John Kitzhaber that was “strange” and contradictory and that she is ready to take over as governor should he resign over an ethics scandal.

Kate Brown said the governor had asked her to fly back to Oregon from a conference in Washington, D.C., but when she arrived, he asked why she had returned.

“This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation,” Brown said in a statement. She is a Democrat, as is Kitzhaber.

She said Kitzhaber told her he's not resigning, but then began a discussion about a transition.

In a statement, Brown said:

"Late Tuesday afternoon, I received a call from the Governor while I was in Washington, DC at a Secretaries of State conference. He asked me to come back to Oregon as soon as possible to speak with him in person and alone.

I got on a plane yesterday morning and arrived at 3:40 in the afternoon. 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, DC, which I found strange. 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.

This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation.

I informed the Governor that I am ready, and my staff will be ready, should he resign. Right now I am focused on doing my job for the people of Oregon."

Brown would automatically become governor if Kitzhaber steps aside in the wake of influence-peddling allegations involving his fiancee, a green-energy consultant.

Until Thursday's statement, Brown had avoided weighing in on the controversy surrounding Kitzhaber. Her move further isolates him from other senior Democrats, none of whom have come to his aid.

Kitzhaber's future has been the subject of intense speculation in Oregon. He told some of his aides he was stepping down and summoned Brown from Washington, then changed his mind while she was traveling, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation.

They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about private discussions.

It's not clear why Kitzhaber, a four-term governor who handily won re-election in November, decided he would stay put despite mounting criticism over allegations his fiancée used his office to win contracts for her consulting business. He issued a vague statement on Wednesday explaining he was not resigning.

“I was elected to do a job for the people of this great state, and I intend to continue to do so,” Kitzhaber said, repeating a refrain he's uttered at least twice in the past two weeks.

Web Design & Web Development by LVSYS