Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan has publicly apologized for having worked as a consultant for a marijuana company that paid her far more than what she earned from her state salary. The La Mota subsidiary paid her $10,000 monthly and offered her bonuses of up to $300,000 per year for securing further state licenses. After refusing to disclose the terms of her contract, Fagan has shared a copy. As an elected official and Democrat, Fagan said she will not resign despite calls from Republicans to do so. Oregon’s Democratic governor, Tina Kotek, has requested a probe by the state’s Government Ethics Commission and the Department of Justice.
On Monday, during a Zoom meeting, Fagan apologized for damaging the trust she and others had built up over the years. She apologized for poor judgement and said she would work towards building trust again. The controversy arose after Fagan’s office released an audit calling for the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission to reform some marijuana business rules, which the audit deemed as burdensome, especially when combined with federal restrictions that cover interstate trade, banking, and taxation. Her spokesperson clarified that Fagan excused herself from the audit as she was a paid consultant for a La Mota affiliate, an organization in the marijuana retail chain.
According to Fagan, the fact that the consultation is not a conflict of interest makes it possible for professionals to work for outside organizations. Her client would not be the only one affected by any regulation changes resulting from the audit, which would be decided by the governor, the legislature, or the cannabis commission. La Mota’s co-owner has hosted events for top Democratic Oregon politicians, with the business’s owners being alleged by Willamette Week, a Portland newspaper, to owe more than $1.7 million in unpaid bills and further state and federal taxes.
Republicans in the legislature called for Fagan’s resignation, seeing her outside work as an ethics violation. Governor Kotek called for investigations to bring Oregonians’ trust back in their government. Fagan has stopped working as a consultant with La Mota subsidiary Veriede Holdings and given the money from her political action committee to the Oregon Humane Society. Her consultant work was unrelated to her elected position because, as an Oregon lawyer, she advised and represented businesses. However, during a news conference on Monday, reporters were skeptical of her stance. They questioned why La Mota would employ her as a marijuana consultant unless they wanted her to use her position to expand their business in other states, given the number of experts in Oregon who could have provided this service.