Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan will resign from office, following ethics questions into her private consulting work.
Fagan announced her resignation Tuesday morning, May 2. Her resignation will take effect Monday, May 9.
The day prior, Fagan announced she had terminated her contract with Veriede Holdings– a company affiliated with the La Mota chain of cannabis dispensaries–after it came to light that Fagan had accepted a lucrative contract to do consulting work for Veriede while also serving as Secretary of State. La Mota’s owners made substantial donations to Fagan’s political campaign before she was elected.
The primary job of the Secretary of State is to oversee elections, but the office also oversees statewide audits. Just last week, the Secretary of State's office released an audit on the need to modernize cannabis laws to grow the state's economy.
While Fagan claimed her side work wasn’t illegal, critics argued it eroded the public’s trust in Fagan, and presented questions about a conflict of interest. The OLCC is responsible for regulating companies like La Mota. In fact, La Mota is currently under state audit after Willamette Week reported the company had accumulated unpaid taxes while bankrolling prominent Democratic campaigns. Willamette Week was also the first to report Fagan’s consulting contract with La Mota’s affiliate company.
In a press conference Monday, May 1, Fagan said since taking a pay cut to work as an elected official, she began supplementing her income with consulting work and as a part-time professor at Willamette University Law School.
Her Secretary of State salary is $77,000.
“I owe the people of Oregon an apology,” Fagan said Monday in a statement. “I exercised poor judgment by contracting with a company that is owned by my significant political donors and is regulated by an agency that was under audit by my Audits Division. I am sorry for harming the trust that I’ve worked so hard to build with you over the last few years, and I will spend the next two years working hard to rebuild it.”
Fagan also told reporters she took on side work to supplement her income after a divorce that left her as the sole income provider for her family. Fagan noted she’s a renter trying to keep up with expensive housing costs in the Portland Metro area.
“Earlier this year, I began working for supplemental income, both at Willamette University Law School teaching a class and as an independent contractor consulting with Veriede Holding on the cannabis industry outside of Oregon,” Fagan added. “I diligently followed the Oregon Government Ethics Commission’s published guidelines for private employment of public officials, the same exact ethics rules I’ve followed for a decade, since I became a legislator in 2013.”
Immediately after Fagan’s resignation announcement Tuesday, Gov. Tina Kotek said Deputy Secretary Cheryl Myers will serve as the acting Secretary of State on an interim basis, until Kotek appoints someone to the position.
“This morning, Secretary Fagan informed me of her decision to resign. I support this decision,” Kotek said. “It is essential that Oregonians have trust in their government. I believe this is a first step in restoring that trust. During the upcoming appointment process, my office will do everything possible to support the hard-working staff in the Secretary of State’s office and ensure this will not disrupt the May 16 election.”