By editorial board • 

Resignation rights the wrong, but doesn't undo the damage

The original intent of this editorial was to call for the resignation of Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, citing lapses of integrity and judgment so flagrant they served to betray the trust of all Oregonians.

At it happened, Fagan beat us to it. She reversed her recent trend and did the right thing Tuesday by resigning on her own volition.

However, the storm of recrimination over the trail of wrongdoing, exposed in a torrent of stories originating in Willamette Week and reverberating in The Oregonian, made her resignation all but inevitable. So we can give her little credit there.

In addition to The Oregonian, three of the last four secretaries of state, two of them fellow Democrats, joined a growing resignation chorus leading up to the announcement. And we’re confident the fourth, the late Dennis Richardson, would have joined them had he still been with us.

It was a relatively easy call for us, as we weren’t enamored of Fagan in the first place. In the 2020 election cycle, we endorsed Mark Hass in the primary and Kim Thatcher in the general, noting on the latter occasion, “There is something to be said for putting a Republican in charge of keeping the government honest, when that government is thoroughly dominated by the opposing party.”

Those words sound particularly prescient today, given the facts now coming to light. In a nutshell:

Fagan, a divorced mother of two who had let her license to practice law lapse, quickly found her $77,000 state salary insufficient. Facing substantial student loan, credit card and personal loan debt, she termed it “not enough to make ends meet.”

According to a divorce filing, she earned more than $375,000 during the last two years she practiced, between the end of her House service in 2017 and beginning of her Senate service in 2019. And 47 states pay their secretaries of state better, often much better, including neighboring Idaho at just over $117,000, and Washington at just under $135,000.

We think the salaries Oregon sets for its top elected officials — $98,600 for the governor, $82,220 for the attorney general and $77,000 for the secretary of state and state treasurer — are in dire need of a substantial upward adjustment.

However, Fagan knew what the job paid when she mounted her 2020 run. And income averages less than $65,000 for Oregon households, with a large percentage of them requiring wage-earners working in tandem to get there.

Instead of just making do, she signed a consulting contract with the Veriede Holding Co., a subsidiary of the La Mota pot dispensary chain. La Mota principals Aaron Mitchell and Rosa Cazares agreed to pay her $120,000 a year, plus $30,000 each for any dispensing licenses she was able to help them land outside Oregon and New Mexico.

That sounds bad enough on the face, but it gets worse, much worse:

n Fagan failed to follow standard practice of seeking a written signoff from the state Ethics Commission. She compounded that by failing to report the income on mandatory state disclosure forms.

n Mitchell and Cazares were major donors to the campaigns of Fagan and other Democrats, including Gov. Tina Kotek, who is giving $75,000 to the Oregon Food Bank to clear her slate. What’s more, the couple and their companies are facing $7 million in state and federal liens for unpaid taxes, plus an array of lawsuits for unpaid debts.

n Fagan’s Audit Division just completed a year-long analysis of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission’s pot regulation performance, and Fagan didn’t recuse herself until it was virtually wrapped up. In addition, she directed her auditors to include input from Casares.

n The secretary of state stands second in line to the governor, which is how Kate Brown got the job a few years back. And the office’s audits and elections divisions are principal pillars of government transparency and accountability in Oregon.

When the storm first broke, Fagan issued a statement saying, “I owe the people of Oregon an apology. I exercised poor judgment by contracting with a company that is owned by my significant political donors and is regulated by agency that was under audit by my Audits Division.”

She soon realized that what she actually owed them was a resignation. And in that, we wholeheartedly concur.



Well at least the Dems will resign when caught unlike the repubs.

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable