The four state employees who were suspended last year over accusations that they had steered a consulting contract to John Kitzhaber’s girlfriend, Bend resident Cylvia Hayes, have been officially reinstated.
The Department of Adminstrative services announced the four workers, all employees of the Oregon Department of Energy, will return to their jobs after an independent investigation cleared them of any wrongdoing. The details of the investigation, which was conducted by a Portland law firm at the state’s request, have not yet been released. However, a press release from the state said that the “exhaustive investigation by an independent legal counsel” had exonerated the four employees, including interim department director, Mark Long. The other employees are Joan Fraser, Paul Seesing and Shelli Honeywell.
The four were accused of steering a portion of a federal grant for energy consulting services to Haye’s firm, TEEM, on the eve of the gubernatorial election. The ensuing controversy spurred an investigation by Attorney General John Kroger’s office. Kroger ultimately decided that there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges in the case, but recommended the Hayes return the $60,000 awarded to her firm by the state. (Hayes has declined.)
The ensuing independent investigation cleared the employees of any ethical or professional wrongdoing. It’s not the end of the saga, however. According to the state’s press release, the employees will be offered a name-clearing hearing in which they will be afforded a chance to publicly tell their side of the story. If none of the employees opt for the hearing by Friday, the state will begin releasing the investigative documents related to the case. In the event that one or more of the employees requests a hearing, the state will delay release of the investigators reports until June 8. Meanwhile, a Marion County Circuit Judge is still determining which documents to release in relation to the Attorney General’s investigation, which have been kept under lock and key since the investigation concluded in March at Kroger's request.