February 12, 2015 / 1:13 AM / 3 years ago

Corruption probe closes in on Oregon governor

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber attends a prayer vigil after a shooting at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon June 10, 2014.Steve Dipaola

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Embattled Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, the focus of a criminal corruption probe involving his fiancee's role in his office, repeated on Wednesday that he had no intention of resigning as pressure mounted on him to step down.

Kitzhaber, a Democrat re-elected to an unprecedented fourth term in November, has been dogged for months by allegations that fiancee Cylvia Hayes used her role in his office for personal gain, raising questions about his political future.

Two recall petition campaigns have been organized in recent weeks, and the Portland Oregonian, the state's biggest and most influential newspaper, called last week for his resignation.

Kitzhaber himself canceled a planned weekend appearance to plant trees in a Portland suburb, according to a statement from the city of Tigard.

And on Wednesday, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, who would take over from Kitzhaber if he did step down, cut short her trip to Washington, D.C., for a conference scheduled through Friday and flew home to the Pacific Northwest. A spokesman, Tony Green, said he could not say why.

Images posted by a broadcaster on social media showed reporters camped out at Portland International Airport waiting for Brown to return.

Amid a flurry of reports on those developments by the Oregonian and other media outlets, Kitzhaber sought to tamp down speculation that he might leave office.

"I have no intention of resigning as Governor of the state of Oregon," Kitzhaber said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. "I was elected to do a job for the people of this great state and I intend to continue to do so."

Kitzhaber previously said he would not step down but would cooperate with a criminal probe launched on Friday by state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum over a potential conflict of interest between Hayes' role in his office and her private consulting business.

An earlier review by the state's ethics commission has been put on hold pending the outcome.

Media reports last week revealed that Hayes received $118,000 in previously undisclosed consulting fees in 2011 and 2012 from the Washington-based Clean Economy Development Center while advising the governor on energy policy.

Kitzhaber did not disclose those fees in annual disclosure filings. He has said the couple did not see it as a potential conflict of interest and therefore did not feel it had to be reported.

He recently announced Hayes will no longer have a policy role in his office.

Editing by Eric M. Johnson, Steve Gorman and Eric Walsh

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