SALEM, OR -- Following a week of intense scrutiny over her work with a cannabis business, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan announced Monday she will resign, effective Monday, May 8. After that, Deputy Secretary Cheryl Myers will take on oversight of the agency until a new Secretary is appointed by the Governor.
Her office says the May 16th election should not be impacted by the transition.
Secretary Fagan issued the following statement: “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. 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. It has been a true honor to serve the people of Oregon.
“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.”
In response, Governor Tina Kotek issued a statement saying, "I support this decision. 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."
Deputy Secretary of State Cheryl Myers said in a statement, “This is a resilient agency, with strong division leadership and internal systems that can withstand change. We are ready to continue the important work of the Secretary of State’s office during this transition.
“My first priority is to make sure Oregonians receive the customer service they deserve. This agency does such critical work, and it’s our job to put Oregonians first during this transition.
“This is an unfortunate situation, but a change of leadership will allow agency staff to continue their good work with less distraction moving forward.”
In response to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s resignation, Speaker of the House Dan Rayfield, Senate President Rob Wagner, House Majority Leader Julie Fahey, and Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber issue the following statement:
“As elected leaders, we know that our work depends solely on our ability to hold the trust of the people we serve and represent. Secretary of State Fagan’s severe lapses of judgment eroded trust with the people of Oregon, including legislators who depend on the work of the Audits Division for vital information on public policy. This breach of trust became too wide for her to bridge. Her decision to resign will allow the state to move on and rebuild trust.”
“Secretary Fagan found herself in a web of ethical violations and it finally caught up to her thanks to exceptional investigative journalism by Willamette Week’s Sophie Peel and Nigel Jaquiss. It is critically important that statewide elected officials exercise good judgement at all times. It is clear that Fagan has broken Oregon’s trust beyond repair. It’s time to return integrity to the Secretary of State’s office,” Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend) said in a statement. “Today’s resignation of Secretary Fagan reflects the level of corruption occurring in state government. Since the beginning of the year, I have said we need a transparent process. The level of abuse Secretary Fagan flaunted from her official position is just another example the extreme measures of one-party rule in Oregon,” added House Republican Leader Breese-Iverson (R-Prineville). “We encourage the Governor to use this opportunity to appoint a person who can restore trust and ethics in the Secretary of State’s office. Additionally, we suggest due diligence and thorough vetting in the consideration of potential appointees.”
The move is in response to Fagan's work with Veriede Holdings, affiliated with the pot dispensary chain La Mota. "Upon painful reflection, taking that contract was poor judgment," she said in a Monday press conference, "I made a mistake and I own it, and I am sorry."
She told reporters she was hired in February to gather information in other states, as the company looked to expand outside of Oregon, "It was a mistake to get into that contract because it was with an industry that is regulated by an agency that was under audit by my division." She says she also teaches at Willamette University and needed outside income, "I’m starting over financially after a divorce, I have two young kids, I have student loans and other bills, I’m a renter in the expensive Portland-metro area, and I’m the sole income earner in my household. So, to put it bluntly, my Secretary of State salary alone is not enough for me to make ends meet." According to public records, Oregon's Secretary of State is paid $77,000 a year.
Fagan says she terminated the $10,000 a month contract with Veriede and will donate political contributions from its owners to the Oregon Humane Society, "I am deeply sorry for harming the trust that I and others have worked so hard to build. And I will begin working to rebuild it today." She refused, however, to release her tax returns.