Oregon Public Broadcasting recently reported that Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan was quitting her lucrative second job as a “consultant” for Veriede Holding, LLC, an affiliate of a marijuana dispensary called La Mota, after it was found she “broke public trust by agreeing to work for a cannabis industry player — and political donor — that stood to gain from an audit the Secretary of State’s Office was carrying out.”
“Clearly, this contract raises questions,” she said. “Upon painful reflection, taking that contract was poor judgment, and for that, I am sorry.”
She offered details of how she obtained the contract from Rosa Cazares and Aaron Mitchell, who gave her the consulting gig after she told them she was going to take a job teaching at Willamette University to supplement her $77,000 secretary of state salary.
“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,” she said.
“Rosa mentioned that her company was looking to expand outside of Oregon and looking for contractors to do research on the industry and U.S. states and territories,” wrote Fagan, adding, “This opportunity interested me because it was something I was highly qualified to do.”
According to the report, “For that work, the secretary was paid $10,000 a month beginning on Feb. 20. She was eligible to receive a $30,000 bonus if La Mota secured licenses in any state besides Oregon and New Mexico.”
“It was not immediately clear on Monday why New Mexico was singled out in the contract, but it may be because the company was already making inroads there. La Mota CEO Rosa Cazares met with New Mexico’s Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales several times. ‘They were here asking questions about doing business in New Mexico, asking about the cannabis industry, the recent changes to our laws,’ said Jim Farrell, a spokesman for the lieutenant governor. Farrell said Cazares did not ask for specific help, but she did contribute to Morales’ campaign fund,” the report noted.
In the summer of 2022, La Mota purchased a small bakery in Deming to convert to a dispensary, as well as two other properties in the state. However, Deming rejected the proposal due to its close vicinity to a nearby daycare.
Fagan claimed to have spent 15 hours per week working on the New Mexico contract, describing it as tedious research.
“Fagan was twice asked whether she would release her tax returns to shed further light on her financial situation. She said she would not release those tax documents. Monday’s press conference concluded as a journalist asked the question again,” the report concluded.