- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The man who leaked thousands of emails from the personal account of former Gov. John Kitzhaber to a Portland newspaper is coming forward publicly.

In a story published Wednesday, Michael Rodgers told Willamette Week that he wants to speak out because he’s worn down from months of isolation and investigation.

“Life has not been good for me,” Rodgers told the newspaper. “I can’t do this any longer.”

Rodgers is on paid leave from his job at the Department of Administrative Services, where he’s a senior administrator overseeing technology for state agencies. His staff is responsible for storing emails and data for tens of thousands of workers.

Rodgers told the newspaper that his lawyer met with a prosecutor from the Marion County district attorney’s office, who said Rodgers could resign or face one count of official misconduct for each of the more than 6,000 emails that he leaked. He refused the deal. The prosecutor, Paige Clarkson, did not respond to an email from The Associated Press. She confirmed to Willamette Week that a call took place but did not elaborate, the newspaper reported.

Facing mounting legal fees, Rodgers has turned to an online crowdfunding campaign to raise money.

In February, with Kitzhaber and his fiancee embroiled in a conflict-of-interest scandal, a technology staffer received a request from Kitzhaber’s assistant asking that emails from the then-governor’s personal account be deleted from state servers. The request rose through the chain of command to Rodgers, who refused to delete them.

Rodgers told Willamette Week that he went to his boss, Michael Jordan, a Kitzhaber appointee and close ally of the then-governor, who said he’d find out from the governor’s staff what was going on. Jordan later told him the governor’s staff wanted to review the emails. He copied them to thumb drives and, fearing they’d eventually be deleted, he made a copy for himself.

Rodgers said he was unsure what to do with the emails he had. He told Willamette Week he didn’t trust the state police, which was part of Kitzhaber’s administration, and found that a majority of the Oregon Supreme Court and all of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission comprised political appointees.

He said he turned to a state human resources official who suggested he go to the media.

Willamette Week reports that Rodgers gave the emails to the newspaper under the condition that he remain anonymous and that none of the documents that were clearly about personal matters would be published.

Based on the information provided by Rodgers, the newspaper reported on Feb. 12 that Kitzhaber’s staff had requested the destruction of the emails. His spokeswoman said they were from a personal account and archived by mistake. The report escalated the already growing pressure on Kitzhaber to resign.

The next day, he announced his decision to step down, and federal investigators served the state with a subpoena for a wide range of records, including the emails he sought to delete.

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