Records show Secretary of State Shemia Fagan used language proposed by La Mota co-owner Rosa Cazares to try to shape the scope of her office’s Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission audit, from which Fagan would later recuse herself to take a private consulting gig with Cazares’ weed chain.
Emails obtained by WW last week show that Cazares emailed an edited description of the audit to Fagan on Jan. 29, 2021. The Oregonian reported on the email earlier today—but until now, it has been unclear whether Cazares was proposing the scope of the audit to Fagan, offering edits on a previously written audit title, or something else entirely. WW had asked last week that Fagan’s office provide more context about the exchange.
Fagan’s office says it can locate no email or text sent from Fagan’s official device to which Cazares was replying. But on Thursday afternoon, after WW and The Oregonian submitted questions to Fagan’s office, spokesman Ben Morris said that Fagan likely shared it with Cazares outside of formal channels—meaning Cazares edited previously written language describing the audit’s scope.
“We have no records of the secretary sharing the draft plan outside the agency. However, based on the emails with Rosa Cazares, it appears as though Secretary Fagan did share the draft 2021-22 audit plan with Ms. Cazares for feedback in January 2021,” Morris said. “No agency staff, including [Audits Division] director [Kip] Memmott or the deputy secretary, were aware that the secretary sought input from Ms. Cazares.”
Morris says Fagan subsequently “included an updated summary and title of the OLCC audit in her audit plan” that used Cazares’ suggested edits. In other words, she took Cazares’ suggestions for what the audit should include and sent those instructions to state auditors.
It is another in a series of revelations about the influence Cazares, a major donor to Fagan’s election campaign, wielded over her office. Fagan would later take a contract job moonlighting for La Mota, the embattled dispensary chain. That decision, and its subsequent discovery by WW, would cost Fagan her once-bright political career. On Tuesday, Fagan resigned.
Morris added on Thursday: “Importantly, the summary provided by Ms. Cazares differs substantially from the audit’s final scope determined by the audit team.”
Below is a document, provided by Morris, that shows the evolution of the OLCC audit description language—and how Cazares’ input may have helped shape its final form.