Shemia Fagan allegedly spent taxpayer and campaign money on personal travel expenses for her family
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Months after former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan made headlines over various ethics concerns, the Oregon Ethics Commission voted to investigate her controversial travel expenses on Friday.
The investigation is related to the former secretary’s alleged spending of taxpayer and campaign money on personal travel expenses for her family, according to documents released by the Secretary of State’s Office in June.
The documents show Fagan used thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds on expenses such as pet fees, airplane tickets for her kids and stays in multiple four-star hotels outside of Oregon.
Documents included hotel and car rental expenses connected to various trips in 2022, including the southern Oregon Coast.
On Tuesday, KOIN 6 reached out to Fagan’s lawyers about the ongoing investigation and were told they had “no comment.”
In a previous statement to KOIN 6 News, Secretary of State spokesperson Ben Morris said, “Policy allows travel with families on overnight stays; however, additional costs above single occupancy are the responsibility of the employee if for personal use and not a business reason. The Secretary was advised by staff that permitting family members to ride in a state-paid rental vehicle was prohibited by the agency’s travel policy.”
In September 2022, a revenue accountant emailed Fagan’s executive assistant about how to separate personal use from state business in a rental car charge. The accountant’s email said, in part, “state employees cannot benefit from state contracts. So in this case, this vehicle was rented for state business and then kept for personal use which is an ethical violation in a couple of different ways.”
Before Fagan resigned, she said her salary was not enough to provide for her family. She made $77,000 per year.
Meanwhile, online transaction records on the state Secretary of State website show that in April 2023, Fagan pulled $20,149.96 from her campaign as “Reimbursement for Personal Expenditures” with it addressed to “Candidate & Immediate Family.” According to Oregon’s campaign finance rules, candidates are allowed to use campaign funds after they win an election, so long as the money goes toward their duties. However, personal use of these funds is prohibited.
Fagan officially resigned on May 8 after raising ethical concerns sparked by her paid consulting contract for Verde Holding LLC – an affiliate of the cannabis company La Mota — while her office was auditing the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission.
In June, federal investigators requested records related to Fagan and La Mota, as well as the company’s owners Aaron Mitchell and Rosa Cazares.
Still, with the growing controversy following her resignation, Republican consultant and former state representative Julie Parrish says the state should not wait for a complaint to fully investigate Fagan’s finances – including her campaign funds.
“The fact that Shemia Fagan wrote herself, right before all of this happened, a $20,000 reimbursement in one fell check is eye-popping,” Parrish said. “The fact that she had accumulated $20,000 of largely miscellaneous contributions that are outside of the public purview is really problematic, given that she’s not she was not in a campaign cycle.”
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.