Oregon’s Secretary of State has resigned after her side job as a consultant for a marijuana business raised ethics concerns.
Secretary Shemia Fagan took a job with Veriede Holding and its subsidiary La Mota, a dispensary chain, while her office was auditing the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission. Although the audit was said to be largely complete at the time and she recused herself, the news that she was paid to advise the company raised concerns about transparency and trust in government. The audit was released on April 28 and recommended revising the regulations on the cannabis industry.
The owners of Veriede Holding donated to Fagan’s political campaign, per KATU2.
The Democrat publicly apologized on May 1, saying she used “poor judgment” and that the issue had become “a distraction from the important and critical work of the Secretary of State’s office.”
“I am sorry for harming the trust that I and so many others have worked so hard to build with you over the last few years,” Fagan said during a Zoom press conference, per AP News. “I will begin working to build that trust back today.”
As a consultant for La Mota, Fagan was paid $10,000 a month and earned bonuses of $30,000 each time she successfully helped the company earn a license in states other than Oregon and New Mexico. Fagan has said she spent about 15 hours a week on the job.
The Secretary of State’s salary in Oregon is $77,000. The Secretary of State oversees elections and audits government regulatory bodies.
Oregon Governor Tina Kotek had said over the weekend that she was “very dismayed” to learn about Fagan’s second job. Kotek ordered the Oregon Government Ethics Commission to review the issues and announced the state’s Department of Justice would investigate Fagan’s office.
Oregon Representative Shelly Boshart Davis, a Republican, called on the state legislature to create an impeachment process for elected officials in light of the conflict over Fagan’s consultant job.
“While I recognize that investigations need time to play out, members of both parties have already expressed their dismay and concern over the emerging situation with Secretary of State Shemia Fagan and the impact this is having on public trust,” said Boshart Davis in a May 1 statement.
Ultimately, Fagan announced on May 2 she will resign from her office.
“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,” Fagan said in a statement released through local media outlets. “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.”
“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,” she concluded.
Her last day in office will be May 8.
“No Oregon secretary of state has completed their four-year term for a decade, due to the resignation of a governor who was replaced by a secretary of state and a death in office from cancer of another secretary of state,” reports AP.
Kotek will appoint a replacement for Fagan.