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Governor’s fiancee lived at home intended for pot

October 14, 2014

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Less than a week after she admitted to a sham marriage, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s fiancee said late Monday that she lived in 1997 on a property that was intended to be used for a marijuana growing operation.

Cylvia Hayes issued a statement saying the marijuana grow operation “never materialized” on the property in Okanogan, Washington, a remote community near the Canadian border, although the man who sold the property says he found evidence that it did.

“I am not proud of that brief period of time,” Hayes said after receiving inquiries from KOIN-TV. “I was involved in an abusive relationship with a dangerous man.”

Hayes said last week that she was paid to enter a fraudulent marriage to help an immigrant remain in the United States, also in 1997. She’s also under fire for earning money from organizations seeking to influence state policy.

Hayes said she was never financially involved in the marijuana grow, and shortly after moving there “began to make plans to get away.” She moved to Oregon in July 1998.

“I did not pay any part of the down payment or mortgage payments. I had no money. The money I had received in July 1997 for entering a fraudulent marriage was used as I have previously stated — to purchase a laptop and pay school expenses.”

A real estate broker who owned the property before selling to Hayes and a man told The Oregonian and KOIN that he found trimmings of marijuana plants. Patrick Siemion said he did not see marijuana plants but found fertilizer and irrigation tubing that he considered evidence of a grow.

“He was not the leader,” Siemion said of the man with Hayes in an interview with The Oregonian. “The leader was her. She did all the talking, all the negotiating. I remember her saying, ‘Oh this is just the perfect place, we’re so happy to have it.’”

Hayes got engaged over the summer to Kitzhaber, the Democratic governor who is seeking a fourth term in next month’s election.

Kitzhaber’s Republican rival, state Rep. Dennis Richardson, has tried to keep the focus on Hayes’ consulting work, arguing that Hayes’ outside work is part of a pattern of missteps that show Kitzhaber’s administration is “inept and unethical.”

Kitzhaber on Monday asked a state commission for a formal opinion on whether Hayes is subject to state ethics laws and, if so, whether she’s broken them.

Kitzhaber says his office has taken care to make sure that Hayes’ consulting work doesn’t pose a conflict of interest, including proactively reviewing her contracts before she agreed to work. But all three contracts made public by the governor’s office were reviewed only after they went into effect.

A decision by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission is unlikely to come before the election. The commission can take up to 120 days to respond, and there are no scheduled meetings before the Nov. 4 election.

Before Kitzhaber was elected governor, Hayes ran a consulting business, 3E Strategies, that worked on renewable energy issues. As first lady, she’s taken a public and active role, advising the governor on energy policy while advocating programs that reduce hunger and poverty. She’s uncompensated and has continued her outside consulting.

The governor’s office has released copies of three contracts from 2013 worth nearly $86,000, along with draft and final conflict disclosure forms. The drafts, dated in July 2013, suggest Hayes couldn’t use her first lady title in her consulting work or any state facilities, including Mahonia Hall, the governor’s official residence.

But the final versions of the documents include exceptions, allowing Hayes to call herself first lady in “a biographical profile” and use Mahonia Hall for meetings on contracts already obtained.

Rachel Wray, a spokeswoman for Kitzhaber’s office, said the documents were changed after Hayes “asked for clarification.”

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