Kitzhaber to thank for Oregon’s ‘F’ in integrity

In the category of executive accountability, Oregon failed with a score of 55%

Oregon Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber makes remarks during an election night party Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Oregon Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber makes remarks during an election night party Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Results from the 2015 State Integrity Investigation are in, and as it turns out, Oregon and Washington don’t rank very high when it comes to accountability and transparency.

Oregon, which ranked 44th overall, was one of 11 states which received an “F” grade.

The Center for Public Integrity described Oregon as a “land of ethics, manners hurt by rare scandal.”

While former Governor John Kitzhaber’s resignation may seem like a thing of the past, the report suggests scandal surrounding his office “highlighted a wobbly legal framework in Oregon’s government.”

Political analyst Jim Moore told KOIN 6 News he agreed, claiming it was inarguably the Kitzhaber scandal that really took down the state’s grade.

“What the Kitzhaber scandal shows is, because we don’t have impeachment, because there’s no real mechanism for punishing the governor or slapping him or her on the wrist, because of those 2 things we really don’t have accountability,” Moore said.

In fact, in the category of executive accountability, Oregon failed with a score of 55%.

Questions like: “Can the chief executive be held accountable for his/her actions?” were a no-win for the state which witnessed its governor’s fall from grace this year.

Another term of executive accountability: “In practice, the governor and state cabinet-level officials do not use state resources for personal purposes,” warranted a “0” score for Oregon, thanks to Kitzhaber’s unchecked behavior of his girlfriend and former first lady, Cylvia Hayes.

“[The governor] has used state resources for personal purposes in excess of five times,” CPI’s report states. “Cylvia Hayes roughly tripled her income in 2013 through companies from whom she accepted contracts who expected that she would lobby the government on her behalf.”

Moore says this type of behavior happens because the state’s ethics committee can only do what the legislature lays out for them.

“We don’t have an independent agency whose job is to go after this kind of stuff,” he explained. “In other states, that might be the audit agency but in Oregon, the audit agency doesn’t do these types of things.”

The investigation also graded states on public access to information, which has been a hot topic in Salem. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum recently pushed for a special task force to look into whether the public records law has too many exemptions and loopholes that make it easy for government entities not to release information in a timely manner.

While Rosenblum and Governor Kate Brown are pushing for reforms, as things stand today, Oregon fails in giving its citizens fair access to information.

The report shows Oregon’s public records law has an astounding 480 exemptions and a lack of firm deadlines for the delivery of documents.

“The Kitzhaber debacle underscored the consequences when public information doesn’t flow freely or in a timely way,” CPI’s report states. “Substantive deadlines might have allowed voters a closer look at Kitzhaber’s issues before he was re-elected, only to resign a month after his swearing-in.”

Oregon received just 3 passing marks in the categories of electoral oversight, state budget processes and internal auditing, which all received “C” grades.

The results weren’t great across the board. In total, only 3 states received scores higher than a “D+”. Those include California, Alaska and Connecticut.

Washington, described as “‘one of the cleanest dirty shirts’ in test of states’ integrity” scored a “D+” and ranked 12th in the nation.

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