By Associated Press • 

Governor: Prosecuting email leaker not in public interest


SALEM — It would not be in the public's interest to prosecute the state technology manager who leaked the emails of former Gov. John Kitzhaber to the media, Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday.

The Democratic governor said in a statement released by her office that a decision about whether to file charges against Michael Rodgers lies with the district attorneys in Yamhill and Marion counties, who are collaborating on the investigation. But if the criminal investigation doesn't turn up new information, Brown said she hopes the prosecutors decide against it.

The state has an obligation to protect data, whether it's the governor's emails or taxpayer bank account records, she said, but criminal charges do not seem to be the best response in this case.

“Leaking internal emails to the public was an extraordinary act made in an extraordinary situation; an act based on a lack of trust in the system around him,” Brown's statement said. “Instead of wasting public time and resources pursuing charges in this case, I would rather focus on rebuilding trust and accountability.”

A prosecutor in the Marion County’ district attorney's office did not respond to requests for comment on Brown's statement.

A lawyer for Kitzhaber, Janet Hoffman, said Brown “must make decisions based upon political considerations,” but Rodgers’ explanation doesn't justify divulging Kitzhaber's private emails, including privileged discussions with his lawyers.

“It is against the law to steal electronic communications from the state servers,” Hoffman said. “Former governor Kitzhaber's rights were seriously harmed by the illegal and unwarranted action taken by Mr. Rodgers.”

Rodgers is on leave from his job as a senior technology manager at the Department of Administrative Services. Among his responsibilities was overseeing the State Data Center, which stores emails and other records produced across state government.

In February, a Kitzhaber staffer asked data center employees to delete emails from Kitzhaber's personal account that had been stored on the state servers. Employees balked, fearing the destruction of public records, and kicked the issue up to Rodgers, who refused to delete them. Concerned the governor would succeed in his attempt to delete the emails, Rodgers made an electronic copy of the 6,000 emails and gave it to a reporter for the Willamette Week newspaper.

Rodgers went public with his identity in a story published last week in Willamette Week.

Kitzhaber's lawyers have said that the emails he sought to delete were from his personal Gmail account, not the one he used for official duties, and should not have been archived on state servers.

Kitzhaber resigned in February amid growing pressure from his fellow Democrats over allegations that his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, benefited financially from Kitzhaber's position as governor.

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