Late Thursday evening, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum ordered Cylvia Hayes to disclose all emails relating to public business under a public records request by The Oregonian.
This order was at least in in part a response to the bombshell revelation that the office of Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber requested the destruction of several thousand emails spanning several years of state business, both under his accounts and those of First Lady Cylvia Hayes. The Oregonian reports:
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum Thursday ordered Cylvia Hayes, fiancee of Gov. John Kitzhaber, to turn over to The Oregonian/OregonLive emails from her personal accounts relating to state business.
In an order under the state public records law, Rosenblum rejected Hayes’ claims that she was an honorary first lady with no duty to produce the emails. Hayes contended in fending off the requests for her emails that she held no formal government position and had no government authority.
The Oregonian/OregonLive on Dec. 29 asked Hayes for emails pertaining to state business sent or received by two personal email accounts and one for her business. Hayes doesn’t have a state email account.
Hayes didn’t reply, prompting The Oregonian/OregonLive to petition Rosenblum for an order compelling their disclosure. State law gives the attorney general the authority to settle disputes over public records held by state agencies or officials.
This is a big deal for a couple of reasons. First, the order flatly rejects Hayes’ contention that she has no official public position and is not subject to Oregon public records laws.
More importantly, it reveals a dirty little secret about how deep the culture of corruption goes in Oregon. Hayes and Kitzhaber are far from the only public officials who use private email accounts to circumvent public records laws and conduct state business outside of official communications channels. Indeed, it is well known that most legislators, agency heads, and other public officials and bureaucrats have separate email accounts on servers such as Gmail, Yahoo! or AOL, and that these accounts are often used to discuss public business.
Lois Lerner’s scandal at the IRS demonstrated how easy it is to circumvent official channels and hide true agendas with dummy email accounts. So did the EPA fake email scandal involving former director Lisa Jackson.
The more reporters dig around Salem and ask around, the deeper the culture of corruption appears to run.