Gov. Brown's chief of staff resigns

    SALEM — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's chief of staff, Kristen Leonard, has resigned, effective only a day before the 2017 legislative session begins, Brown said Tuesday.

    In a statement, Brown noted that Leonard began her job in late 2015, committing to serve for one year, and extended it to help oversee the completion of Brown's budget proposal. The resignation is effective Jan. 31.

    Willamette Week recently reported that Leonard and her husband, Kevin Neely, had a financial interest in a book-keeping firm whose biggest client was Brown's re-election campaign, and that Neely's software company had a $214,000 state contract up for renewal this year.

    Brown spokesman Chris Pair said the resignation is unrelated to the reports, the Portland Tribune reported.

    Brown's communications office tweeted recently that Leonard had officially made the financial disclosures months earlier, providing a link to the information on the Oregon Government Ethics Commission web site.

    Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned in 2015 amid suspicion that his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, used her relationship with him to earn lucrative consulting contracts. The couple has denied wrongdoing. Brown, then Secretary of State, became governor, and on Nov. 8 won the gubernatorial election to finish the last two years of his term.

    The chief of staff manages employees in the governor's office and works with state agencies, other offices, and legislative leaders.

    "Kristen executed this job with integrity and distinction, and I am grateful for her dedicated service," Brown said.

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