On March 8, WW reporter Sophie Peel first sent questions to Aaron Mitchell and Rosa Cazares, the co-founders of cannabis dispensary chain La Mota, about mounting tax liens and lawsuits. Shortly afterward, she sent questions to top elected officials—including Gov. Tina Kotek and Secretary of State Shemia Fagan—regarding contributions Mitchell and Cazares made to their campaigns.
In the seven weeks since then, few Oregon leaders have addressed our questions about the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission’s lax regulation of the La Mota chain. The OLCC has not made its interim director available for an interview. Kotek declined to expand an investigation of the agency to include cannabis regulation. And none of the state’s leading Democratic Party officials agreed to return Mitchell and Cazares’ contributions.
Today, April 28, a great deal changed. In the past 24 hours, Peel’s reporting has answered some key questions with troubling revelations.
- The discovery that incited a flurry of revelations was Fagan’s April 27 admission in response to questions from WW that she is working as a paid consultant to an affiliate company of La Mota. Fagan said she recused herself in February from an audit of the OLCC’s cannabis regulations. Read more.
- This morning, WW reported that Fagan recused herself only after the audit had been completed. What’s more, documents obtained by WW show that more than a year ago, Fagan told staff in the Audits Division to interview Cazares, the La Mota co-founder. Emails show Cazares advised Fagan in January 2021 what to examine—mostly regulations Cazares considered unfair. Read more.
- WW reported that Fagan did not seek guidance in writing from the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, a standard practice when confronted with a possible conflict. When Fagan began working for La Mota this February, the cannabis chain was her first consulting client. Read more.
- This afternoon, leading Republican lawmakers called for Fagan to resign. Read more.
- Soon after, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission confirmed that it had received a complaint about Fagan’s moonlighting and would decide within two business days whether to open an investigation. Read more.
- In the evening, Gov. Tina Kotek urged the Ethics Commission to do so, and asked the Oregon Department of Justice to conduct a review of the audit. Kotek said she would give $75,000 in campaign contributions from Cazares, Mitchell and La Mota to the Oregon Food Bank. Read more.
This evening, Fagan released a statement defending her integrity. She has not, however, provided a copy of her contract with the La Mota affiliate or disclosed the terms of that contract.