Kitzhaber on Cylvia Hayes: ‘I need some time’

Governor said he 'has processing to do' over Cylvia Hayes' revelation of secret marriage

Gov. John Kitzhaber addressed the media about revelations his fiancee Cylvia Hayes had a secret marriage he did not know about, Oct. 10, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Gov. John Kitzhaber addressed the media about revelations his fiancee Cylvia Hayes had a secret marriage he did not know about, Oct. 10, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber said he will support his fiancée, even though he is hurt by the revelation of her secret “illegal” marriage.

Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes publicly admitted Thursday she had a third marriage to help the Ethiopian man get his citizenship, and said Kitzhaber had no idea about this event in her life until “three days ago, Tuesday night,” Kitzhaber said Friday.

READ the full KOIN 6 report 

Kitzhaber addressed the media Friday regarding his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes’, secret 1997 marriage to an Ethiopian man.

“Cylvia told me about this three days ago,” said Kitzhaber. He said he “has some processing to do.”


Hayes held a press conference Thursday in which she apologized for the the marriage.

“It took a lot of courage to do that, it was the right thing to do, I support her and I’m very proud of her,” said Kitzhaber said regarding Hayes’ decision to hold a press conference.

“This is a personal issue and I need some time.” He said he is not concerned about how this will affect the election. Hayes’ role in the government will likely come up in the debate, Kitzhaber said.

Kitzhaber made the statement before a scheduled debate at the Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland for OPB’s Think Out Loud.

The original report

A Willamette Week report first revealed Hayes’ “illegal” third marriage.

At a press conference Thursday, Hayes, 46, apologized to “John, the person I love above all others.” She said she needs to take some “personal time to reflect and look at my relationship with John.”

Kitzhaber, 67, and Hayes announced their engagement earlier this summer.

Statement from Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes

Seventeen years ago I made a serious mistake by committing an illegal act when I married a person so that he could retain residency in the United States.  It was a marriage of convenience.  He needed help and I needed financial support.

We were both living in Washington. I was attending Evergreen State College, and we were introduced by mutual acquaintances.  This was a difficult and unstable period in my life.  I want to be clear today – I was associating with the wrong people.  I was struggling to put myself through college and was offered money in exchange for marrying a young person who had a chance to get a college degree himself if he were able to remain in the United States.

We met only a handful of times.  We never lived together.  I have not had any contact with him since the divorce finalized in 2002.

It was wrong then and it is wrong now and I am here today to accept the consequences, some of which will be life changing. And I cannot predict what direction this will go.

In the few years after this bad decision I completed my degree, got my feet underneath me and established my home and career in Oregon.  I became an active and engaged civic volunteer, community member and I became active politically.

My decision to marry illegally felt very, very distant and far removed from the life I was building.  I was ashamed and embarrassed.  Therefore I did not share this information even with John once we met and started dating.

This is the most painful part for me.  John Kitzhaber deserved to know the history of the person he was forming a relationship with.  The fact that I did not disclose this to him meant that he has learned about this in the most public and unpleasant way.  This is my greatest sorrow in this difficult situation.

I apologize deeply for my actions and omissions, first and foremost to John, the person I love and respect above all others.  I also apologize to my friends, family and colleagues who have trusted and supported me.  And to Oregonians, I deeply regret not being right up front about the fact that I had made a serious mistake.  I owe you all an apology.

The work that I do on behalf of our environment and trying to make people’s lives better is incredibly important to me — it’s the focal point of my life.  I will continue to do my best in that arena going forward.

But for the time being, there are more important issues.  I need to take some personal time to reflect and address this difficult situation and to focus on my relationship with John.

Statement from Dennis Richardson’s campaign

The latest scandal raises some serious questions about the First Lady, and what’s also concerning are the possible illegalities associated with her pay-to-play scandal. She likely broke the law in leveraging her official position with the governor to secure tens of thousands of dollars from groups for her own financial gain. At the very least it’s unethical and may even be criminal.

It’s clear from her past history that the First Lady has had no qualms about breaking the law in order to make financial gains. This is a pattern that appears to have continued in her career as a consultant and that work’s conflict of interest with her official role as the First Lady.

Governor Kitzhaber had a responsibility to manage that conflict of interest in an appropriate way, and he did not.  The Governor and First Lady are not above the law, and the state needs to take immediate action to investigate that matter.

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