Wednesday 3 May 2023

Oregon Secretary Of State Resigns Amid Ethics Scandal


The month of May. The season of rebirth. The birds are chirping, the leaves are sprouting green, the sun is out, and there’s an election in progress. What a perfect time for Oregon’s Secretary Of State, Shemia Fagan, to get caught up in a shady lobbying scheme and forced to resign in shame.

Barely two years into the job, Fagan announced her resignation Monday morning, effective the following Monday, May 8th, after it was revealed she was moonlighting as a lobbying for an embattled weed shop that was millions behind in tax debt, but somehow had enough money to generously contribute to numerous democrat campaigns, while also stiffing their employees. Somehow they had enough money to pay Fagan $10,000 a month to pull political favors.

The story, first broken by Willamette Week last week, chronicles the scam:

In a remarkable turn of events, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan confirms in response to questions from WW that she entered into an agreement in February to provide consulting services to an affiliate of the troubled La Mota cannabis dispensary chain.

As WW has previously reported, the owners of La Mota were also major donors to Fagan’s election campaign and have been under the scrutiny of at least two state agencies, the Oregon Department of Revenue and the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission.

La Mota appears to be in financial trouble. In recent years, the Department of Revenue and the federal Internal Revenue Service have filed more than $7 million in liens against La Mota owners Rosa Cazares and Aaron Mitchell, and the companies they control, for failing to pay taxes in full.

A follow up story detailed the payola:

The contract included a base payment of $10,000 a month with additional bonuses of $30,000 for each license she helped the affiliate of La Mota obtain outside the states of Oregon and New Mexico.

Fagan has said the amount of time she spent on the contract was “minimal,” but it was far more lucrative than her state salary of $77,000, or about $6,420 a month.

One such example included a scheme with Connecticut’s Lt. Governor to expand La Mota’s franchise out east.

Of course the same media that launched the story quickly published a puff piece, painting Fagan as the innocent single mother who was only trying to get enough money to make ends meet and pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, since her Secretary Of State job “only” pays $77,000 a year, plug per diem.

Newly minted governor Tina Kotek called for an investigation into the matter, and several other officials called on Fagan to resign.

That resignation came via a press release:

Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan announced her resignation today, effective Monday May 8.  

The Secretary will continue in her official duties until Monday, May 8, at which point Deputy Secretary Cheryl Myers will take on oversight of the agency until a new Secretary is appointed by the Governor. The Deputy has the power to perform any act or duty of the Secretary of State pertaining to the office of the Secretary (ORS 177.040) and is well positioned to help the agency maintain stability and continuity of operations during this transition. 

The Oregon Elections Division and Oregon’s 36 county elections officials are fully prepared to administer the May 16 Special Districts Election. The Elections Division will work with counties to complete the normal activities involved with administering local elections. 

The following is a statement from Secretary of State Shemia Fagan:  

“While I am confident that the ethics investigation will show that I followed the state’s legal and ethical guidelines in trying to make ends meet for my family, it is clear that my actions have become a distraction from the important and critical work of the Secretary of State’s office. Protecting our state’s democracy and ensuring faith in our elected leaders – these are the reasons I ran for this office. They are also the reasons I will be submitting my resignation today. I want to thank the incredible staff in the Secretary of State’s office for their hard work and Oregonians for the opportunity to serve them. It has been a true honor to serve the people of Oregon.  

“At this time, I believe it is in the best interest of our state for me to focus on my children, my family, and personal reflection so that the Secretary of State staff can continue to offer the exemplary customer service Oregonians deserve.” 

Keep in mind this occurring in the middle of an election that Fagan is supposedly overseeing. While there aren’t any major seats up for grabs, several smaller offices that serve as launching grounds for prospective candidates, such as school boards and local water and soil districts, along with several different tax proposals are on the ballots.

It’s the Oregon way.

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