Former Oregon First Lady won't release her emails

Even though John Kitzhaber has resigned as Governor of Oregon, we were assured that when all the investigating came to a close he and his fiance (and former First Lady) Cylvia Hayes would be vindicated. A good first step in clearing the air regarding all of these distasteful allegations would obviously be to get all the records out in public so we can sort things out. So, how about it, Cylvia? Let’s see all of your emails related to your various business dealings.

What’s that? You want us to take a flying leap off a cliff?

Former Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes declared Wednesday that she will go to court to block a state order requiring her to turn over emails related to her public service.

Portland attorney Whitney Boise, representing Hayes, notified The Oregonian/OregonLive and the state Justice Department of her intent to sue in Marion County Circuit Court.

Hayes is under an order issued last week by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to turn over to The Oregonian/OregonLive emails dating back three years pertaining to state business. Rosenblum concluded that Hayes was subject to the state public records law.

The records could shed light on allegations she used her position as an unpaid adviser to then-Gov. John Kitzhaber for personal benefit. Hayes doesn’t have a state email account.

I’m not sure who is advising the former Governor and his girlfriend, assuming they are getting any professional advice at all. If you’re facing serious charges which could wind up seeing Ms. Hayes in the slammer, but you honestly feel that nothing inappropriate took place, the first thing you do is show how open and transparent you plan to be. Suing to prevent anyone from reading your official correspondence is sort of the opposite of that, madam.

But her objections do raise an interesting question which applies not only to her, but to First Ladies at every level, including the White House. Her attorney is claiming that her correspondence doesn’t fall into the public domain because her role as first lady was honorary. We could take that one of two ways. The first possibility is that she’s claiming that since she and Kitzhaber are not married, she was not technically the First Lady. I’ll leave that one to the lawyers.

But the second and more interesting possibility is that she’s claiming that the entire idea of being the First Lady is an unofficial, “honorary” role with no actual duties or responsibilities. (This is a position I fervently agree with, by the way.) Nobody elects the First Lady, be it for the Governor’s mansion or the White House. The companion to the chief executive is not answerable to the public and should not have any power whatsoever because of that. Yet throughout this story in Oregon it has been stated as a matter of established fact that she was acting as an advisor to the Governor and had input on various policy matters for the state. Why? More to the point… how?

But that’s also what will probably doom her in this case. Had she just kept to her own private affairs and not taken on the mantle of state policy advisor we wouldn’t be having this conversation today and her fiancee would likely still be Governor. Perhaps there’s a lesson here for former and future First Ladies in the White House as well.

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