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Oregon’s secretary of state is resigning amid cannabis consulting controversy

<i>Matthew Hinton/AP</i><br/>Oregon's secretary of state Shemia Fagan
Matthew Hinton/AP
Oregon's secretary of state Shemia Fagan

By Andi Babineau, CNN

Oregon’s secretary of state is resigning her post effective next week amid a controversy over a consulting contract she signed with a cannabis company while in office.

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s resignation takes effect Monday, she said in a news release this week.

“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,” Fagan’s statement reads.

Fagan’s announcement came a day after she said she was terminating her agreement — which she signed in February — to be a consultant for a cannabis company affiliated with an Oregon dispensary chain. In a news conference about the termination Monday, Fagan acknowledged that the chain’s owners donated to her 2020 political campaign.

According to terms of the contract, which Fagan released publicly Monday, she was to be paid $10,000 per month for consulting services.

Fagan also was eligible to receive a $30,000 bonus payout for each license granted to the company outside of Oregon — which legalized recreational marijuana in 2015 — or New Mexico.

In Monday’s news conference, she said her contract was “very preliminary,” and she never secured any licenses nor received any bonuses. She was paid for two months under the contract before it was severed, she said.

Before signing the contract, she recused herself from a cannabis industry audit overseen by her office, she said. That audit had begun in 2021 and was already largely complete before her recusal.

“I exercised poor judgment by contracting with a company that is owned by my political donors and is regulated by an agency that was under audit by my audits division,” Fagan said.

“There’s a difference between following all the rules and doing nothing wrong, and I broke your trust and that was wrong,” she said.

Gov. Tina Kotek has accepted Fagan’s resignation. Deputy Secretary of State Cheryl Myers will step into Fagan’s position until the governor appoints a successor.

“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,” Kotek said.

In a separate statement, Myers called the shakeup “an unfortunate situation.”

“This is a resilient agency, with strong division leadership and internal systems that can withstand change,” Myers said. “We are ready to continue the important work of the Secretary of State’s office during this transition.”

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