Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan announces resignation
SALEM, Ore. (KPTV)—Oregon Secretary of State, Shemia Fagan, will step down from her role as the state’s top election official and second in line to the governor’s office in a week’s time after tumultuous few days navigating damaging reports of ethical violations.
Fagan, made the announcement one day after she sat before the press over a Zoom call Monday, apologizing for working as a paid consultant for Veriede Holdings, LLC. She revealed that day the cannabis company was paying her $10,000 per month and offering her a $30,000 bonus if she could secure operating licenses outside of Oregon and New Mexico. To add fuel to the fire, the company was also a donor to Fagan’s campaign and she recently recused herself from an audit on OLCC regulations of the company.
“I’m deeply sorry for harming the trust that I and others have worked so hard to build. I’ll begin to work to rebuild it today,” Fagan told reporters.
But an apology wasn’t good enough for Oregonians and many of their elected representatives in the state legislature. One day after Fagan held the press conference, she announced her resignation and will leave office on May 8th. Sen. Tim Knopp, the Senate Republican Minority Leader said Fagan broke the trust of Oregonians and had to step down.
“We thought it was inevitable.” Sen. Knopp said. “We called for that resignation last Friday because of the ethical breaches that happened.”
Sen. Knopp’s caucus as well as a growing number of Democrats began to call on Fagan to resign after Monday’s press conference. Three former secretaries of state also joined in. Sen. Knopp said he was happy to see bipartisan pressure on Fagan to leave office and let someone new take over.
“Everyone I talked to, Republican, Democrat said they didn’t understand what she was thinking and how she claim to the conclusion this would be okay,” Sen. Knopp said.
The Democratic Caucus echoed the same sentiment in a statement as their Republican counterparts,
“As elected leaders, we know that our work depends solely on our ability to hold the trust of the people we serve and represent. Secretary of State Fagan’s severe lapses of judgment eroded trust with the people of Oregon, including legislators who depend on the work of the Audits Division for vital information on public policy. This breach of trust became too wide for her to bridge. Her decision to resign will allow the state to move on and rebuild trust.”
John Horvick, FOX 12′s Political Analyst, also weighed in on the impact of this resignation on Oregon. The Secretary of State’s role in Oregon is wide-ranging. It includes auditing public accounts, running state elections, overseeing public records, and is the firs in the line of succession to the governor. A role that Horvick said is critical to have trust and transparency with the public.
“Oregon is going under a major election modernization project right now,” Horvick said. “There’s mistrust among many voters about our election systems with Shemia Fagan leads me to think Oregonians will have doubts about that as well.”
Horvick said Fagan’s resignation due to potential ethical violations could impact voters’ trust in other elected offices, from local city councilors to the governor’s office.
“Corruption like this, resignations like this have consequences that go beyond that office,” Fagan said. “They have consequences that go beyond that term.”
After Fagan leaves office on May 8th, Cheryl Meyers, the Deputy Secretary of State, will fill in until Gov. Tina Kotek appoints a successor. That successor will finish out Fagan’s term which ends in 2025. Her office sent FOX 12 a statement that reads in part:
“I support this decision. It is essential that Oregonians have trust in their government. I believe this is a first step in restoring that trust. 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.”
“Now the real question is who can restore that trust to the office,” Knopp said. “I hope the governor takes a good look at somebody who has integrity, knows the process, can manage that office, and can restore that trust and integrity to the Secretary of State’s office because it’s a critical office for a number of reasons for all Oregonians.”
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