Beginning with the first public record that connects the troubled cannabis chain La Mota’s owners to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, here are the key points in the relationship that destroyed Fagan’s career.
Sept. 5, 2020: Aaron Mitchell donates $10,000 to Fagan’s campaign for Oregon secretary of state.
Sept. 18, 2020: Rosa Cazares holds a fundraiser for Fagan at a Northwest Hills mansion that the couple rented.
Oct. 9 & 27, 2020: Mitchell donates another $15,000 to Fagan’s campaign.
Nov. 4, 2020: Backed by organized labor, Shemia wins her bid for Oregon secretary of state.
Jan. 27, 2021: In her first month in office, Fagan asks auditors to discuss the scope of a planned Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission audit with Cazares.
Jan. 29, 2021: Cazares emails Fagan a list of gripes about the OLCC. The list includes “Heavy Handed Enforcement, Micro Management, Takes productive time from business, Due Process, Middle Management.”
April 26, 2021: Cazares and Mitchell throw another fundraiser for Fagan. Mitchell contributes another $20,000 to Fagan’s campaign.
June 25, 2021: Fagan presses the state’s lead auditor to speak with Cazares about the scope of the OLCC audit. “As your team begins scoping for the Cannabis audit, please have them reach out to Rosa Cazares with La Mota,” Fagan writes to Audits Division director Kip Memmott. “She will provide very helpful industry-side scoping.”
Dec. 13, 2021: Fagan meets with Audits Division managers to discuss the audit’s kickoff. “Shemia asked if the team had interviewed Rosa Cazares with La Mota,” notes from the meeting read. “Shemia said the initial impetus for the audit is a belief that folks who are running cannabis businesses are treated differently.”
Feb. 24, 2022: Records show Cazares tells auditors the OLCC is sexist, ageist and unsupportive of people of color. “They see our sales and how much money we have or shouldn’t have. They see us go from one store to 30, and maybe they feel like we shouldn’t have that,” Cazares says, according to the notes. “They make me feel like I’m a criminal.”
Feb. 7, 2023: Final draft of the audit is sent to the OLCC for response.
Feb. 9, 2023: Emails show that after Fagan makes a call to a staffer for the Oregon Government Ethics Commission (it’s unclear when), the staffer emails Fagan to follow up. “Should you wish to request advice or an opinion specific to you and your situation, we would be happy to provide one. We would just need a detailed description of the circumstances,” the commissioner staffer writes. “Please note, your request for an opinion or letter of advice and the Commission’s response would be public record.”
Fagan does not ask the commission for formal written advice.
Feb. 15, 2023: Fagan emails subordinates to inform them she is recusing herself from the OLCC audit due to the contract with Veriede Holding.
Feb. 24, 2023: Fagan signs a contract with Mitchell and Cazares for consulting work. It stipulates that Fagan will be paid $10,000 a month, plus a $30,000 bonus for every cannabis license obtained outside of Oregon and New Mexico.
March 24, 2023: Fagan responds to WW’s questions about whether La Mota’s tax liens and lawsuits raised concerns for her. “I had no idea about unpaid taxes,” Fagan writes. “You’ll need to direct any financial questions to their company representatives.” She makes no mention that La Mota is now a current client of hers.
March 29, 2023: WW publishes the findings of its investigation into La Mota, Cazares and Mitchell. Later that day, the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries officially terminates a half-million dollar grant awarded to a nonprofit co-founded by Cazares for a registered apprenticeship that never could have been registered by the state because cannabis remains illegal federally.
April 27, 2023: Fagan confirms in response to WW’s questions that she signed a contract in mid-February with Veriede Holding and recused herself from the OLCC audit due to the contract.
April 28, 2023: Top Republican legislators Sen. Tim Knopp (R-Bend) and Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson (R-Prineville) demand that Fagan resign.
Gov. Tina Kotek requests two investigations, one by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission and another by the state Department of Justice, and says she will donate $75,000 to the Oregon Food Bank, just slightly more than La Mota and its founders contributed to Kotek’s election campaign.
April 29, 2023: At a weekend press conference, Kotek says she is “dismayed” by Fagan’s outside contract. “I don’t have outside employment,” Kotek adds. “I only have one job.”
April 30, 2023: More than 10 elected state officials and lawmakers pledge to make charitable donations equivalent to what La Mota and its founders contributed to their campaigns. Fagan remains quiet.
May 1, 2023: Fagan releases a copy of the contract and holds a press conference to answer reporters’ questions. She reveals she spoke to Connecticut Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz on behalf of La Mota and adds she didn’t know Cazares and Mitchell prior to her 2020 campaign.
And yet she says she hopes to rebuild Oregonians’ trust in her. Fagan announces she terminated the contract on Sunday—more than a month after WW reported on the chain’s millions in tax liens and lawsuits alleging nonpayment of bills.
May 2, 2023: Fagan resigns.