Gov. Kotek names new secretary of state to take over for Shemia Fagan

SALEM, Ore. (KGW) — Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek has appointed LaVonne Griffin-Valade to serve as Oregon’s secretary of state.

Griffin-Valade will take over from former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan who resigned in May following backlash after news come out of her consulting work for a marijuana business.

Griffin-Valade has 16 years of experience as a government performance auditor, according to a news release from Kotek’s office, including eight years as an elected auditor. She previously served as Multnomah County Auditor and later Portland City Auditor before retiring in 2014.

In a statement, Kotek said the primary objective of appointing the next secretary of state was to restore confidence in the office after Shemia Fagan’s resignation.

“LaVonne Griffin-Valade has the professional background and ethical judgment to rise above politics and lead the important work of the agency forward,” Kotek said. “This role demands accountability and transparency, especially at this moment, and I am eager to see her leadership restore faith in the Secretary of State’s office.”

Fagan resigned May 8 amid an ethics scandal that began when Willamette Week reported that she had been working a lucrative side job as a consultant for La Mota, a cannabis dispensary chain that has landed in legal trouble for failing to pay taxes and bills.

The Secretary of State is tasked with overseeing state audits, and Fagan took the consulting contract at a time when her office was auditing Oregon’s cannabis industry. Fagan said she had recused herself, but several news organizations reported that the audit had been largely finished by the time she did so.

Her consulting job paid $10,000 a month, with bonuses three times that amount if she helped the company get licenses in other states. The secretary of state’s salary is $77,000 annually.

Fagan apologized for taking the outside job and attributed it to “poor judgment.” She told reporters she is divorced with two young children and has student loans and other bills she said her secretary of state’s salary was not enough to cover.

Griffin-Valade earned a Master of Fine Arts in writing from Portland State University after her retirement and has since pursued a writing career, according to the governor’s office. She has published a series of mystery and psychological thriller novels with titles such as “Dead Point” and “Murderers Creek.” She was born and raised in eastern Oregon.

“I have the experience to bring back credibility, accountability, transparency, and trust to the Secretary of State’s office,” Griffin-Valade said in a statement. “It’s never been more important to have a leader who will focus on rebuilding the public’s trust in the Secretary of State’s office, and that is exactly what I will aim to do every day.”

She will be sworn in June 30 and will serve out the remaining 18 months of Fagan’s term.

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