Oregon COVID Restrictions End

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks during the June 30, 2021, press conference where she declared an end to the state's mask mandate.

SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown is on track to spend more than $100,000 in taxpayer funds for one of her longtime advisers to serve as a part-time political consultant.

Under an arrangement dating back to early 2020, Brown hired her former communications director, Chris Pair, through a no-bid state contract at a rate of $6,500 a month to attend weekly meetings of the Western Governors’ Association on expanding electric vehicle infrastructure, the governor’s signature initiative during her time as chair of the group. So far the state has paid Pair $91,000 under the contract, according to the governor’s press secretary.

During the same time, Brown also paid Pair an undisclosed amount through her political action committee for work that she has declined to describe, beyond saying it was unrelated to state business.

Brown did not disclose that Pair might be hired back on the state’s dime as a consultant when a reporter asked about the longtime communications director’s departure at a Jan. 17, 2020, press conference.

“We’re continuing to work together in other capacities,” the governor said of Pair. But she refused to say what that work was because she said the duties “don’t have to do with stateside at this point” and were paid for by her political action committee.

A month later, the governor’s staff asked state procurement officials to prepare a no-bid contract worth up to $150,000 for Pair’s consulting company, Althea, so that Pair could assist with Oregon’s share of work on the Western Governors’ Association electric vehicle recommendations, according to public records. The contract called for the state to pay Pair $78,000 a year, roughly half the $158,000 salary he previously earned as the governor’s communications director and senior adviser.

Brown declined to comment on why it was necessary and beneficial to taxpayers for her to hire her former staffer through a no-bid contract. Pair also did not respond to calls for comment.

Liz Merah, press secretary for the governor, wrote in an email that Brown had tasked Pair with developing her initiative for the Western Governors’ Association when he was still her communications director, so “when Chris chose to move on from the governor’s office in late 2019,” Brown asked Pair to complete the work.

Merah said Pair’s state-paid work for the governor has been strictly separated from any other political work he does for Brown. “All work performed by Althea LLC under this contract is related to the Western Governors’ Association,” Merah wrote.

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