District attorneys in Marion and Yamhill counties announced Wednesday afternoon they will not file criminal charges against a state employee who leaked former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s emails to the Willamette Week newspaper.
Michael Rodgers is interim director of the state data center where Kitzhaber’s emails are stored.
“Under the totality of the circumstances in this case and after a thorough review of the above factors, the mutual decision of these two District Attorneys is that justice would not be served by filing criminal charges against Mr. Rogers,” Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau and Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry said in a written statement issued late Wednesday afternoon. “There is no actual ‘whistle-blower’ defense in Oregon criminal statutes. Even so, the conduct of Mr. Rodgers appears precipitated by a perceived rational that stems from extraordinary circumstances seemingly unparalleled in the Oregon political landscape.”
The announcement followed a statement Tuesday by Gov. Kate Brown, who said it would not serve the public interest to prosecute Rodgers.
Rodgers admitted in a story in Willamette Week last week that he leaked the emails, and said he did so because he was concerned the state would delete emails that were public records. A Kitzhaber staffer asked employees at the state data center to delete the personal emails after The Oregonian newspaper filed a public records request for all Kitzhaber’s’ emails stored on state computer servers. The Oregon Department of Justice had also just launched a criminal investigation into allegations that Kitzhaber and his fiancée Cylvia Hayes used their public positions to benefit Hayes’ consulting business.
Kitzhaber had emails from two private accounts forwarded to his state email account, according to the prosecutors’ statement. One private email was a Gmail account that Kitzhaber used for his work as governor, according to public records that have been released.
Beglau and Berry wrote that Rodgers had other options to notify authorities of his concerns, although they did not specify what those were, and they said Rodgers should have been aware the emails were backed up on other computer servers.
In the prosecutors’ opinions, Rodgers’ actions constituted a misdemeanor crime of second degree official misconduct, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,250 fine for each violation.
“A public servant commits the crime of official misconduct in the second degree if the person knowingly violates any statute relating to the office of the person,” the prosecutors wrote in their statement.
Rodgers remains on paid administrative leave pending a human resources investigation into his role in the leak and handling of computers and cell phones used by the Kitzhaber administration.