The Secretary of State’s office will work with counties on the upcoming election. (Amanda Loman/Oregon Capital Chronicle)
Shemia Fagan ended her nearly three-year tenure as Oregon’s 28th secretary of state at midday Monday, less than two hours after her staff released a statement endorsing her resignation and calling the agency “resilient.”
Fagan’s deputy, Cheryl Myers, who earns more than double what Fagan was paid, took over as acting secretary of state.
“Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s actions put this agency in a difficult position,” Myers said in a statement. “I believe she made the right decision by resigning. The professional staff at the Secretary of State’s office will continue serving Oregonians through the Elections Division, Audits Division, State Archives and Corporation Division.”
She said the agency will continue as before, without interruptions. Under state law, Gov. Tina Kotek is responsible for appointing another Democrat to serve as secretary of state until a new election in 2024. She’s likely to take a few weeks to make a decision.
Fagan announced her resignation following revelations by Willamette Week in late April that she was moonlighting for a cannabis company whose co-owner had given $45,000 to her campaign and was interviewed for a Secretary of State audit. Fagan had rescinded herself from the audit shortly before it was finished, but reporting last week by OregonLive showed that the co-owner of the company had influenced the audit plan.
The side job paid $10,000 a month, much more than Fagan’s $77,000 a year salary. Myers makes more than $238,000 a year.
With details about the scandal emerging in recent days, Kip Memmott, the chief auditor, tried to remove any taint on the Audits Division, one of the key functions of the Secretary of State’s office.
“Secretary Fagan’s actions have cast a shadow over the good work of the Oregon Audits Division, and I join Acting Secretary Myers in agreeing with the secretary’s decision to resign. It’s the best way for the agency to move forward,” Memmott wrote.
He said a third-party review of the cannabis audit requested by Gov. Tina Kotek will remove any doubts that the audit of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission was subjected to outside influence.
“From the origin of the idea to audit OLCC up until the report release last week, the Oregon Audits Division followed government auditing standards and procedures every step of the way, as we always do,” Memmott wrote.
Elections Director Molly Woon said Fagan’s resignation will not influence her staff’s work with the state’s 36 county clerks in the upcoming election for school boards and other issues.
“We will continue to provide exceptional service and encourage all voters to make their voices heard in the May 16th elections,” Moon wrote.
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