PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan has terminated her contract with Veriede Holdings, LLC., an affiliate of the marijuana dispensary chain La Mota.
Fagan made the announcement in a news release on Monday, a few days after her spokesperson argued that she faced no conflict of interest working as a paid consultant for the owners of the marijuana dispensary chain while overseeing a state audit on cannabis regulation.
"I owe the people of Oregon an apology. 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," Fagan said in the news release on Monday. "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 started working for the owners of La Mota in February, according to a report published by Willamette Week.
In the news release Monday morning, Fagan said she began teaching a class at Willamette University Law School and working as an independent contractor consulting with Veriede Holding outside of Oregon for supplemental income.
Fagan also provided a copy of her contract, signed Feb. 24, which paid $10,000 per month plus a bonus of $30,000 if she helped the company acquire marijuana licenses in any state other than Oregon or New Mexico. A total of 21 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational use of marijuana.
Fagan's annual salary as secretary of state, a job that is responsible for running elections in Oregon and overseeing state audits, is $77,000.
During a Monday news conference, Fagan told reporters she is divorced with two young children and has student loans and other bills that she said her secretary of state's salary is not enough to cover.
She said her consultant job had nothing to do with her elected position. Reporters, though, were skeptical. They asked why she would be hired as a pot consultant unless La Mota wanted her to leverage her position to expand their business in other states, especially when there are numerous bona fide marijuana business experts in Oregon.
Fagan responded that she has experience advising and representing, as a lawyer, Oregon businesses and contended that her work for La Mota didn't require her to be a marijuana expert. Fagan said one person she contacted as a consultant was Connecticut Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, "just to ask who would be somebody for a cannabis company to talk to if they wanted to get the lay of the land."
At Monday's news conference, Fagan fought back tears as she said she is "deeply honored to serve as Oregon Secretary of state, regardless of the compensation."
Following news of her side job late last week, state Republican leaders accused Fagan of ethics violations and called on her to resign. On Friday, Gov. Tina Kotek called for the Oregon Government Commission to investigate Fagan's actions and for the Oregon Department of Justice to look into a recent audit of cannabis industry regulations.
"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," Fagan said on Monday. "I look forward to the findings of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission because they will confirm that I followed Oregon ethics rules and laws. I am also eager for the Department of Justice's review of the OLCC audit because the review will verify that hard-working auditors in the Oregon Audits Division conducted their work with independence and integrity."