Former Gov. Kitzhaber linked to other conflicts of interest

An adviser to the governor netted $400,000 from the state as a side job; emails show Kitzhaber suggested a friendly special prosecutor and sought to prevent Hayes’ emails from being released.

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The Oregonian and Willamette Week report on additional possible missteps by former Gov. John Kitzhaber.

A Kitzhaber policy adviser netted $400,000 from the state as a side job, Oregonian/’s Laura Gunderson reports.

Tom Tuchmann served as the ex-governor’s forestry adviser and the owner of U.S. Forest Capital, a private consulting firm that “helps clients create value, maintain viable communities and conserve our environment.”


Tuchmann’s dual roles mirror those of Cylvia Hayes, underscoring Kitzhaber’s blindness to conflicts of interest. Hayes’ work as a private consultant and policy adviser to Kitzhaber led to the governor’s downfall and a sweeping FBI investigation. But unlike Hayes, Tuchmann was paid for his government role. He took in nearly $400,000 in fees and expenses from May 2012 through December 2014, according to his state contract. Gov. Kate Brown severed the contract Feb. 18 – the day she took office with a pledge that no one in her administration would earn money from outside sources.

“In terms of our path moving forward, the contract didn’t meet the direction we wanted to go in,” Brown told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “Obviously, I’ve set forth my principles in terms of ethics, and I want to stick by them.”

Tuchmann has not been accused of operating outside the law as it was Kitzhaber’s responsibility to ensure the adviser’s role was “ethically sound,” according to Gunderson.

Willamette Week’s Nigel Jaquiss published a pair of stories this week that show Kitzhaber scrambling in the days leading up to his resignation to mitigate the damage from the investigations.

Kitzhaber wanted to hand-pick a special prosecutor, emails from his attorney Jim McDermott show.

From WW:

On Feb. 6, McDermott sent an email to the governor’s personal account suggesting the names.


Following up on our meeting, here are the names of three retired Oregon Supreme Court Justices that I mention, along with their years of service: 

 Paul DeMuniz (2001-2013)

Mick Gillette (1986-2010)

Sue Leeson (1998-2003)

Bill Riggs is another retired justice, but I would not recommend that you suggest him.

Of the three, I lean toward Gillette.  He’s currently defending two long-time Stoel Rives partners, on appeal, who were found to have committed serious legal ethical conflict of interest violations by the trial panel.  So Gillette has recent (and sympathetic) experience with clients seeking to navigate ethical issues.

After the email, Kitzhaber requested a meeting with Rosenblum, which was declined. A week later, Kitzhaber resigned.

WW published another story about Kitzhaber’s emails, indicating he and former first lady Cylvia Hayes aimed to block her emails from being released.

Kitzhaber’s emails, obtained by WW last month, show Kitzhaber and Hayes’ lawyers wanted to maintain the pretense Hayes was not really a public official, and to blunt legal jeopardy and negative press that could result from the release of her emails.The Kitzhaber emails—which Kitzhaber’s staff sought to delete from state servers on Feb. 5—also show the attorneys believe that, while Hayes’ emails do not contain a smoking gun, they would not help her case, especially in the light of a pending criminal investigation.The emails show that as early as Nov. 2, 2014, two days before his re-election, Kitzhaber had already lawyered up. 

He and Hayes were concerned about allegations, first reported by WW in October, of conflicts of interest and influence peddling relating to $85,000 in private consulting contracts Hayes landed while serving as first lady and an adviser to Kitzhaber. That story prompted complaints to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission that the first couple had violated ethics rules.

By late November, attorneys were working on a strategy to block Hayes’ emails from being released.