by Dan Lucas
I finally got motivated to read through the 1,502-page report from the Oregon State Police on the witch hunt into the whistleblower who refused to delete former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s emails.
One of the things that kept bothering me as I read it was how wrong it all seemed. Looking at this from the perspective of “a regular Oregonian,” here’s what it looked like. It looked like powerful people in Oregon government, including the former governor and first lady, were engaged in activities that should have been investigated but weren’t – going back to at least October of 2014 when Willamette Week did the work our government should have been doing. Where were the Oregon State Police and Oregon attorney general then? Why no investigation then? During the months and months of additional reporting and the stonewalling by the now former governor, where was the investigation?
Then, when someone NOT in political power, a mere state worker, has the temerity to try to do the right thing and preserve evidence, THEN they suddenly wake up and remember they know how to investigate? Do they know how that looks?
I’m sure they think they’ve got valid reasons for what they did and didn’t do, how they’re constrained and restricted, but as “a regular Oregonian,” I’ve got to tell you that just doesn’t hold water. It seems like some of our highest level of law enforcement in Oregon is used to benefit those in power and not the people of Oregon.
When the whistleblower made his decision back in February it was against the backdrop of Oregon’s one-party rule political insiders getting away with whatever they wanted. Insiders like first lady Cylvia Hayes and Kitzhaber campaign consultant Patricia McCaig. It was against the backdrop of the state’s equivalent of a CEO, Michael Jordan, “one of Kitzhaber’s closest allies in state government” and who even “shared an office for a time” with Cylvia Hayes, being the whistleblower’s direct boss.
The governor’s office and insider allies did ask that emails be deleted and the emails were believed to be potential evidence – so what on earth warranted pursuing criminal charges against a whistleblower who should have been heralded for doing the right thing? Doesn’t our highest level of law enforcement in Oregon want people to preserve evidence?
Multiple interviews in the Oregon State Police report describe how the governor’s office asked that emails be removed, that email accounts be deleted. Those requests were followed by other requests from high-level Kitzhaber insider allies to remove email accounts. State data center workers said the requests to delete email accounts “didn’t seem right”, were “unethical” and made them “feel like they were being asked to do something illegal,” and they were concerned that “deleting the emails from the state email archives could be considered tampering with evidence.”
Tampering with evidence was a very real concern. As I’ve written previously “At the time, there were already reports of an FBI investigation into Kitzhaber and Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes.” And the Oregon attorney general had finally indicated her office might begin an investigation into Kitzhaber and Hayes.
Our broken system that is designed to protect those in power left the whistleblower few options other than going to the media. Discussions with the Oregon Department of Justice and human resources went nowhere, and where do you go to preserve the governor’s emails when all of your bosses work for the governor, are allies of the governor and all the other places you might go are filled with appointees by the governor?
And despite the questions by some about the actual ability to delete all the emails and backups, I’ve been in information technology (IT) for over 30 years and with the state’s “CEO” pushing and the right people in IT willing to go along, they could have been deleted, including all backups.
There is a final irony in the OSP report. The actual statutes they were going to charge the whistleblower with are related to official misconduct (ORS 162.415, ORS 162.405). “The public servant knowingly fails to perform a duty” could easily apply to the Oregon attorney general for not investigating the governor or first lady. “The public servant knowingly performs an act constituting an unauthorized exercise in officials duties” in order to “harm another” could easily apply to all those who investigated and charged the whistleblower. Who’ll be bringing those charges?
To read more from Dan, visit www.dan-lucas.com