Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan (D) says she has abandoned a lucrative cannabis industry consulting side gig after days of Republican lawmakers calling for her to resign over the position — and after Gov. Tina Kotek (D) requested an ethics inquiry into the role — OPB reports. Fagan released a written statement and held a 30-minute press conference on Monday announcing she had canceled the contract and that she recognizes how consulting for an industry under audit by her own office had been a bad idea.
“Clearly this contract raises questions. Upon painful reflection, taking that contract was poor judgment, and for that I am sorry.” — Fagan, in a press release
During the press conference, Fagan said she had “faithfully followed Oregon’s ethics rules and laws” but that, “I am not here today to defend my rule-following. I’m here today to own that there’s a difference between following all the rules and doing nothing wrong.”
The row came after Fagan’s office released an audit of the state’s cannabis industry that concluded the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) should “reform” some rules for cannabusinesses in the state, describing the certain regulations as “burdens” when paired with federal law and banking and tax issues.
Fagan had recused herself from the audit due to her role as a paid consultant for an affiliate of La Mota, a vertically integrated cannabis company with retailers around the state.
According to a Willamette Week report, La Mota’s co-owners have hosted fundraisers for Democratic politicians, including Fagan, and her partner and the businesses allegedly owe $1.7 million in unpaid bills along with owing back federal and state taxes. Fagan said her consulting work for the company had been to investigate out-of-state opportunities for the cannabis brand’s expansion; the position earned $10,000 per month.
In a joint statement, Senate Republican leader Tim Knopp and House Republican leader Vikki Breese-Iverson had called Fagan’s role with the company “an ethics violation” while she remains secretary of state.
“…If it isn’t then Oregon’s ethics laws are broken,” the Republican leaders said in the statement.
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