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Kitzhaber's Friend Becomes Foe

by Jonathan Brinckman
The Oregonian, August 19, 2002

In an interview this month, Brogoitti, a glass of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, explained why he rocked the boat.

It was the governor wanting to push his policy," Brogoitti said on the deck of his house on a 1,000-acre ranch overlooking the Blue Mountains. "When I finally figured out that he wanted to exclude the agriculture people, the rural economic interests, then I blew."

But he didn't expect to be asked to resign after the first fax.

Kitzhaber appointed Brogoitti, a registered Democrat, in 1995. The governor's aides say he chose Brogoitti because he wanted a moderate resident of Eastern Oregon to represent him on a council that wrestles with the controversial issue of how to aid threatened runs of Columbia Basin salmon. The power council was established by a 1980 federal law to balance salmon protection with hydropower generation at federal dams.

"We were eager to represent the constituency in Eastern Oregon," said Roy Hemmingway, once Kitzhaber's top salmon and energy adviser and now chairman of the state Public Utilities Commission. "I thought, 'Here is a moderate guy who has contacts in Eastern Oregon and is loyal to the governor.' I had no reason to doubt the governor's choice."

Louise Solliday, the governor's senior policy adviser, said Kitzhaber has been open about his belief that the power council is not adequately addressing the complex issues of electricity generation and salmon protection in the Columbia Basin.

But Kitzhaber realizes that he lacks support from other Northwest governors for replacing the council and has given up on the idea, she said.

Kitzhaber felt betrayed by Brogoitti, she said.

"John Brogoitti and the governor have been friends for a long time, and this is a very odd thing to do to a person you consider your friend. It couldn't come at a worse time. We're dealing with major fires all over the state, and we're dealing with a major budget crisis."

Kitzhaber has named Melinda Eden, chairwoman of the state Environmental Quality Commission, to replace Brogoitti. He had chosen Eden, a lawyer and farmer in Milton-Freewater, before Brogoitti sent his faxes but had not announced the decision, Solliday said.

Kitzhaber had planned to wait until the state Senate confirmed Eden before replacing Brogoitti, she said. Now he wants Brogoitti out immediately.

Brogoitti has requested a public hearing before the governor and, under state law, cannot be fired until after that hearing.

Democratic governors often have turned to Brogoitti for public service because he is a rare hybrid: a prominent Democrat in Eastern Oregon.

In 1987, Gov. Neil Goldschmidt appointed him to the state Land Conservation and Development Commission. Goldschmidt's successor, Barbara Roberts, also a Democrat, reappointed him to the commission, which administers Oregon's statewide land-use planning goals.

Brogoitti campaigned for Kitzhaber and was one of 17 people named to his transition team.

"I got quite a few Republicans to come on board for him," Brogoitti said. "He didn't win here, but he came pretty close. This is pretty traditional, entrenched Republican country."

Brogoitti, in the interview at his Pendleton ranch, said he had become increasingly opposed to Kitzhaber's ideas.

The difference became clear in February 2000, when Kitzhaber gave a speech in which he called breaching four lower Snake River federal dams "a responsible and cost-effective option." Kitzhaber did not endorse the action in that speech, saying it should be among the salmon-restoration options considered -- but he said enough for Brogoitti.

"There's no way I would support breaching those dams," Brogoitti said. "If you read his speech, it's pretty clear that would be his preferred way of doing things."

His relationship with Kitzhaber deteriorated further when the governor enlisted his support in a campaign to have Eric Bloch -- Kitzhaber's other appointee to the power council -- elected chairman, Brogoitti said.

The council, with two representatives each from Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho, had voted unanimously in January to re-elect Washington appointee Larry Cassidy as chairman, even though Cassidy had been chairman for two terms, the normal maximum.

Brogoitti said he told Kitzhaber that the other council members had rebuffed Bloch because they did not want him as a leader, not because they did not want an Oregon representative as chairman.

It was only after Kitzhaber refused Brogoitti's offer to campaign for the chairmanship, Brogoitti said, that he realized the governor was using the issue as a way to build support for withdrawing Oregon from the council.

Brogoitti, who recently remarried, said he now realizes that the most important things are his family and his community. Supporting Eastern Oregon's farmers, ranchers and industries is now Brogoitti's top priority.

"You talk about fish going extinct. This is a lifestyle that is going extinct," he said. "I don't need this job. It's very stressful to me. I'm not going to be a part of anything where the governor is pushing the governor's agenda."

Jonathan Brinckman
Kitzhaber's Friend Becomes Foe
The Oregonian, August 19, 2002

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