Original story follows:
Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan apologized on Monday after it was revealed that she had accepted a $10,000 per month side job working as a consultant for two top controversial Democrat donors in the cannabis industry while her office cracked down on industry regulations.
"I am sorry for harming the trust that I and so many others have worked so hard to build with you over the last few years,” Fagan said during a Monday press conference. "I will begin working to build that trust back today."
Fagan, a Democrat, said that she felt compelled to take the consulting job to supplement her $77,000 state salary, according to the Oregonian. Republican legislators are now calling for her resignation, and Democrat Governor Tina Kotek reportedly launched an investigation into the matter with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission and the Oregon Department of Justice on Friday.
Fagan announced on Monday that she has since resigned from her $10,000 consulting job, which also gave her the opportunity to receive an extra $30,000 each time she was to successfully help the company get licensed in other states, AP reports.
The scandal came to light on Friday when Fagan's office released an audit indicating that they would be "cracking down" on the cannabis industry through significant audits. The office called on the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission to "reform" rules for marijuana businesses.
Ben Morris, a spokesman for Fagan's office, said that Fagan had recused herself from the audit because she is a paid consultant for La Mota.
The company that Fagan was under contract with was La Mota, the second-largest cannabis dispensary chain in the state of Oregon, which has an extensive history of controversies.
During Monday's press conference, Fagan indicated that her acting as a consultant was not a "conflict of interest" because action taken by results of an audit would be from the governor, cannabis commission, and the state legislature. She said that under the state's ethics guidelines, it allows for other employment opportunities.
Rosa Cazares, 34, and her partner Aaron Mitchell, 45, who own La Mota, owe millions of dollars in federal and state taxes, according to Willamette Weekly.
Despite bringing in more than $40 million in annual revenue, Cazares and Mitchell have been in legal trouble after the Oregon Department of Revenue issued tax liens of more than $1.6 million since 2018. The pair also owes $1.4 million for nonpayment of personal income and employment taxes to the IRS, which the federal government placed liens on them in March and November of last year, the outlet reports.
In addition, the owner of the home that Cazares and Mitchell were renting from in Portland, Oregon has also sued the couple multiple times in Multnomah County Court for seven months of unpaid rent and extensive damage to the home. Eric Breon, the owner of the home, said in the lawsuit that cat urine and feces were strewn across the floors inside the home.
Since 2017, there have been 30 lawsuits filed against La Mota in Oregon circuit courts, according to Willamette Weekly, totaling more than $1.7 million in unpaid bills from "cannabis vendors, handymen, testing labs, and even the accounting firm hired to complete 2021 tax returns for all of the LLCs."
Cazares and Mitchell are both high-profile Democrat donors that have helped bankroll multiple campaigns, including current Oregon governor Tina Kotek, who launched the investigation into Fagan. The couple became more involved in politics during the 2022 election year, and hosted several fundraisers for Democrat candidates.
Cazares hosted a black-tie event for Gov. Kotek at Hotel DeLuxe as a last-ditch effort to raise more funds shortly before Kotek won the governor's office. She also hosted two fundraisers Secretary of State Fagan, and another for Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, Willamette Weekly reports.
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