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One of Oregon governor’s top attorneys is leaving

Woman talking with two other women on a sidewalk with vehicles in background.
Antonio Sierra
Gov. Tina Kotek talks with local leaders in Hermiston, Ore., May 3, 2023.

One of Gov. Tina Kotek’s top attorneys will depart her position in coming weeks, marking a fourth staffer leaving the governor’s office in less than a month.

Lindsey Burrows, Kotek’s deputy general counsel, informed superiors on Monday she plans to depart the office on April 26 to return to work as a criminal defense attorney, according to a letter shared with OPB and KLCC.

“Although the decision to leave has been difficult, I am returning to the work to which I have dedicated my legal career: protecting the rights of individual Oregonians in criminal cases, when they are particularly vulnerable,” Burrows wrote in a resignation letter. “Defense attorneys make our systems more just and more humane. As you know, this essential work is as important now as ever, while the state faces a critical shortage of qualified counsel.”

The departure makes Burrows the latest gubernatorial staffer heading to the exits. In late March, three of Kotek’s top aides announced their departures, in a move that sources with knowledge of the governor’s office have said is tied to the expanding role First Lady Aimee Kotek Wilson has sought on policy matters.

Kotek has declined repeatedly to discuss the reasons behind those moves, but has not contradicted widespread reports that Kotek Wilson’s ambitions have played a part in the shakeup. In a meeting with reporters last week, she at one point cast reporting on the matter as “assumptions” while pledging to seek guidance from state ethics officials about developing a formal Office of the First Spouse.

Kotek Wilson’s role in the office is the subject of ethics complaints filed with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, though the actual substance of those complaints is currently confidential.

There is no suggestion in Burrows’ resignation letter that her decision to leave is tied to Kotek Wilson. Even the presence of a resignation letter – readily supplied by the governor’s office – is different. The office has said it doesn’t have such letters for the three aides that have already departed or gone on leave: former Chief of Staff Andrea Cooper, former special adviser Abby Tibbs and Deputy Chief of Staff Lindsey O’Brien.

Burrows did not immediately respond to an inquiry on Tuesday. Members of the general counsel office help the governor navigate legal matters and vet nominees for open judicial seats, among other things.

Turnover is expected in any governor’s office, though observers say the lockstep departure of three-fourths of Kotek’s executive team in recent weeks bucks the normal trend. Kotek last week seemed to paint the staff departures as routine.

“We are continuing to work hard every day on the priorities that I’ve set and we have a transition in our office where we need to have some new leaders step up or bring in some new people,” she told reporters last week. “That is not unusual.”

Burrows has worked for been with Kotek’s office since March of 2023, according to her LinkedIn profile, meaning she will have spent a little over a year as deputy general counsel.

That tenure is shorter than some others who have held similar roles. Dustin Buehler, a deputy general counsel under former Gov. Kate Brown, served in the role for three years, before being promoted to Brown’s general counsel.

His predecessor, Misha Isaak, also spent years in the governor’s office.

Dirk VanderHart covers Oregon politics and government for KLCC. Before barging onto the radio in 2018, he spent more than a decade as a newspaper reporter—much of that time reporting on city government for the Portland Mercury. He’s also had stints covering chicanery in Southwest Missouri, the wilds of Ohio in Ohio, and all things Texas on Capitol Hill.
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