Oregon Live: Former Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes wants the state to pay her legal costs for fighting to keep secret her state-related emails.
Citing a state finding that Hayes was a public official, Portland attorney Whitney Boise last week asked the state Justice Department to approve state payment for his work in a court fight over Hayes’ emails. The agency has yet to respond.
If the request is granted, the cost of her legal fight will ultimately be borne by taxpayers. The request follows a federal judge’s recent decision to give Hayes federally paid defense attorneys as she faces a sweeping influence peddling investigation.
The new request for legal help comes in Hayes’ continuing effort to fend off an order from Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum that she turn over state-related emails maintained in her personal email accounts.
Hayes did not use a state-issued email account and instead relied on a personal account and her consulting business account to communicate with state officials and conduct state business. Though not a state employee, Hayes was treated as a policy adviser in the administration of former Gov. John Kitzhaber, her fiancé.
Boise said in a March 26 letter to Rosenblum that her order concluded Hayes was a public official and emails related to state business were subject to disclosure. The order technically concluded Hayes was a “state agency” in directing her to turn over the material to The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Boise wrote that Hayes’ status as a “state agency” triggered a law authorizing her access to “special counsel” independent of the state justice department. “I am requesting that the legal fees and costs incurred by Ms. Hayes in this case be paid by the state of Oregon,” Boise wrote.
The letter refers to Hayes’ suit against The Oregonian/OregonLive in Marion County Circuit Court to block disclosure of her emails. Boise has argued in court filings that Hayes isn’t a public official who must turn over state-related documents.
His letter to Rosenblum signals a shift away from that position, which could be significant for Hayes in both the public records fight and in investigations she faces by a federal grand jury and the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. Boise didn’t return messages seeking comment, but his letter appears to abandon Hayes’ earlier claim that she was not a public official.
That’s significant because certain criminal statutes apply only to public officials. And Hayes’ attorneys have argued that the Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction to investigate her, claiming she is not a public official.
Boise sought the state funding after conceding in a recent court filing that Hayes would not be entitled to collect legal fees if she won her public records lawsuit against The Oregonian/OregonLive. Boise initially sought those fees as part of Hayes’ complaint in Marion County Circuit Court.
If Hayes concedes she is a public official, other arguments made in her lawsuit would remain: that releasing the emails would violate her privacy as well as her constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.
Charles Hinkle, a Portland attorney representing The Oregonian/ OregonLive, had responded that the circumstances of the public records fight didn’t allow Hayes to collect legal fees even if she prevailed.
A hearing on the public records lawsuit is scheduled for May 1 in Marion County Circuit Court.
- Citing Monica Lewinsky, former first lady Cylvia Hayes takes to Internet to critique media
- Oregon’s First Lady Cylvia Hayes discloses another $118,000 for consulting fees
Ms. Hayes should get some advice from Hillary.
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