SALEM -- Embattled Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber on Friday announced his resignation amid an ethics scandal involving himself and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes.
Kitzhaber, who has served in political roles for nearly 40 years and was just re-elected to a historic fourth gubernatorial term in November, faced calls to resign by the leaders of his own party and appeared to have virtually no support in state government circles.
The governor announced that his resignation will take effect Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 10 a.m.
The decision capped a wild week in Oregon politics. Kitzhaber seemed poised to step down, then changed his mind, but ultimately bowed to calls from legislative leaders that he quit.
His resignation letter read, in part, "It is not in my nature to walk away from a job I have undertaken – it is to stand and fight for the cause. For that reason I apologize to all those people who gave of their faith, time, energy and resources to elect me to a fourth term last year and who have supported me over the past three decades. I promise you that I will continue to pursue our shared goals and our common cause in another venue."
In the letter, he also chastised the media for the many reports surrounding his ethics allegations and his fellow colleagues for not standing by his side.
"I must also say that it is deeply troubling to me to realize that we have come to a place in the history of this great state of ours where a person can be charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the media with no due process and no independent verification of the allegations involved. But even more troubling – and on a very personal level as someone who has given 35 years of public service to Oregon – is that so many of my former allies in common cause have been willing to simply accept this judgment at its face value," he wrote.
The governor, along with his fiancee Cylvia Hayes, have been ensnared in a public corruption scandal over allegations that Hayes used her influence as an energy-related consultant to win lucrative contracts and shape state policy.
Late Friday, Willamette Week reported the The U.S. Department of Justice filed criminal subpoenas with the state of Oregon seeking "information, records and documents, including data electronically or digitally stored on computer devices" related to Kitzhaber, Hayes, 15 other people and 11 state agencies, including the governor's office.
State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum launched a criminal investigation into the couple's activities.
Rosenblum released a statement following the resignation that read, in part, "The governor's decision to resign will not affect our ongoing criminal investigation into allegations of his and Ms. Hayes' conduct."
Secretary of State Kate Brown, a Democrat, will assume the office. She will also be the nation's first openly bisexual governor.
Kitzhaber has consistently maintained that he and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, worked hard to avoid conflicts between her public and private roles.
On Thursday, it was reported that the governor's staff had tried to destroy thousands of personal emails after receiving a public records request for them. Brown also added to the unprecedented situation. She said that she had returned early from a Washington D.C. conference at the governor's request to discuss a possible transition, but then was told by Kitzhaber on Wednesday that he was not stepping down after all.
Kitzhaber handily won re-election in November to a fourth term after surviving the botched rollout of Cover Oregon, the state's online health care exchange.