(Headline USA) Oregon’s Democratic Secretary of State Shemia Fagan is in hot water, with Republican lawmakers calling for her resignation and the Democratic governor seeking investigations because Fagan took a consulting job with a marijuana firm.
The matter came to a head Friday after Fagan’s office released an audit of the state’s marijuana regulators, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission. The audit called for the OLCC to “reform” some rules for marijuana businesses, saying they are “burdens” when combined with federal restrictions on interstate commerce, banking and taxation.
Fagan, a Democrat, recused herself from the audit because she is a paid consultant of an affiliate of marijuana retail chain La Mota, Fagan’s spokesman Ben Morris said at a virtual news conference about the audit’s release.
La Mota’s co-owner has hosted fundraisers for top Democratic Oregon politicians, including Fagan, while the co-owner, her partner and their business allegedly owe $1.7 million in unpaid bills and more in state and federal taxes, according to Willamette Week, a Portland newspaper.
Fagan didn’t appear at the news conference, which included her spokesman, deputy and the audits director. News of the consultancy was first reported Thursday by Willamette Week.
Morris denied Fagan’s outside work represented a conflict of interest and said Oregon Government Ethics Commission guidelines specifically allow public officials to maintain private employment.
But hours after the audit press conference, Republican legislative leaders, who are in the minority in the Legislature, called for Fagan to resign over the consulting job.
“This appears to be an ethics violation and if it isn’t then Oregon’s ethics laws are broken,” Senate Republican leader Tim Knopp and House Republican leader Vikki Breese-Iverson said in a joint statement.
Gov. Tina Kotek, a Democrat, indicated she had concerns later on Friday.
“It’s critical that Oregonians trust their government,” Kotek said in an emailed statement.
Kotek said she was urging the Oregon Government Ethics Commission “to immediately investigate this situation” and asked the Oregon Department of Justice to examine the audit.
The audit questioned the OLCC’s requirement that marijuana businesses keep their stash behind steel doors and have 24-hour video surveillance systems. The OLCC should make marijuana regulations more like those governing distilled spirits, which the agency also regulates, the auditors said.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press