SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Ethics Commission accepted a settlement agreement with former First Lady Cylvia Hayes Friday, after she apologized and admitted she “blurred the lines” between her role as a public official and a private lobbyist.
The commission unanimously agreed to allow Hayes to pay a $50,000 fine after she was accused of violating 22 state ethics laws while serving as Oregon’s first lady.
This was the second attempt at a settlement for Hayes, after the commission previously rejected a $44,000 settlement request in March because the panel objected because Hayes didn’t appear before the commissioners in person.
Ethics investigators concluded last year that Hayes abused her access as an adviser and consultant to Gov. John Kitzhaber, her fiancé, who resigned amid the scandal in 2015.
Hayes was first lady of Oregon and an unpaid policy adviser to Kitzhaber from 2011 to 2015 on clean energy, ocean health and a clean economy, but received payments via a company she owned and another one she worked for to advocate for those issues, the commission said.
Hayes at first remained quiet during the hearing, until commissioners pressed her for an apology, saying they were expecting her to publicly recognize her ethics violations.
“It is difficult to justify substantially reducing the fine…without some acknowledgement by you of what the issue was,” said commissioner Alison Kean.
Hayes, who would face a maximum $110,000 if the case proceeded to court, then admitted recognition of her actions.
“It’s clear that I have blurred the lines between my private paid consulting work and the volunteer contributions I was making to the governor’s administration,” she said.
Hayes will pay less than the full $50,000 in fines because she filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy last July. Commissioners said she will most likely enter into a three-year “repayment plan” for a portion of the amount, but a judge has yet to work out the details.
Last year, Kitzhaber settled his own ethics violations in the case with a $20,000 fine. The Democrat had resigned due to the influence-peddling scandal just over a month into his fourth term as governor.
Before the committee approved Hayes’ settlement, chairman Richard Burke pressed her once more for an apology. He told her that while commissioners “weren’t out to get her,” they were looking for genuine remorse, or “some version of ‘I screwed up and I’m sorry.'”
“I have just said I blurred the lines,” Hayes responded. “I didn’t mean to. I was not as careful as I needed to be. I did not fully appreciate the position I was in and the care that needed to be taken.”
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