State seeks criminal investigation of Kitzhaber email leak


Of the Associated Press

SALEM  — A state agency has asked the Oregon State Police to investigate the disclosure of some of former Gov. John Kitzhaber's personal emails to a reporter.

Two workers from the state data center, which handles a wide variety of technology functions for most state agencies including the archival of emails, have also been placed on paid leave pending an internal investigation.

Michael Jordan, director of the Department of Administrative Services, requested the state police investigation last week after a story published in Willamette Week quoted from Kitzhaber's private emails. They included emails between Kitzhaber and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, as well as between the then-governor and a lawyer representing him before the state ethics commission.

A spokesman for the agency, Matt Shelby, would not say why the two data center employees were placed on leave or whether it was related to the Willamette Week story.

Kitzhaber resigned last week following a series of reports about Hayes’ work for advocacy groups with an interest in Oregon public policy. He's maintained the couple did nothing wrong.

Oregon law generally requires public disclosure of government records, but certain records considered private or confidential are exempt from release. In an email last week to staff at the data center, Jordan said the “clandestine disclosure” to Willamette Week occurred before the emails had been reviewed for confidential information.

Among the records quoted in Willamette Week was a memo to Kitzhaber titled “Cylvia Game Plan: Dec. 2013-Dec. 2018.” It outlined ways for her to take a more active role in Kitzhaber's administration and position herself to “land lucrative work making big positive impacts at end of term.”

The newspaper also quoted emails outlining Kitzhaber's legal strategy during an investigation by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.

“Bottom line, this comes down to trust,” Jordan wrote in his email to data center employees. “Trust in our ability to securely store sensitive information; trust in our process to determine what information is public; trust that we can work with agencies to strike the appropriate balance between security and transparency. The recent breach has upset that balance. We're working now to restore it.”

Kitzhaber used at least two private email accounts while he was governor. A Gmail account was used primarily for state business, an AT&T account for personal matters. Emails from both accounts were automatically archived on state servers.

Before he resigned, a representative for Kitzhaber asked that the emails from the AT&T account be removed from state servers. Technicians balked. Jordan said in his note to data center workers that “Kitzhaber's emails have been secured in their entirety.”

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