LaVonne Griffin-Valade appointed Oregon Secretary of State, replacing Fagan

LaVonne Griffin-Valade

LaVonne Griffin-Valade has been appointed the new Oregon Secretary of State, Gov. Tina Kotek announced Wednesday. It comes nearly two months after former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan stepped down under pressure from both Republicans and Democrats for having moonlighted as a highly-paid consultant to a marijuana business.

Griffin-Valade has a long background as a performance auditor including eight years as an elected auditor, Kotek’s office said.

“I told Oregonians in May that the primary objective of our next Secretary of State was to restore confidence in the office. 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 in a prepared statement. “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.”

“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.”

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RELATED: Report: Fagan shared draft audit plan with pot company exec who hired her

RELATED: Shemia Fagan resigns over $10,000 per month cannabis consulting controversy

RELATED: Marijuana job lands Oregon Secretary of State in trouble

Fagan’s consulting job paid $10,000 per month, with bonuses three times that amount if she helped the company get licensed in other states. 

Fagan worked for two months as a paid consultant for an affiliate of the company, La Mota, while her office was wrapping up an audit of Oregon’s pot regulator, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission. Fagan said she recused herself from the audit, but it was too much for politicians across the political spectrum to swallow.

She announced May 1 that she quit the job. The next day, Fagan bowed to pressure to leave her elected office too.

After her resignation, it was reported that Fagan shared a draft audit plan description for an Oregon marijuana program with an executive of the cannabis company that later hired her.

Griffin-Valade will serve the final 18 months of Fagan’s term after she is sworn in on Friday.

Here is Griffin-Valade’s bio, courtesy of Gov. Kotek’s office:

LaVonne Griffin-Valade grew up in Eastern Oregon. Born in John Day, she was raised by her mill worker
mother and Teamster Union truck driver father. LaVonne began her career working as an administrative
assistant in the Crook County Juvenile Department. As a divorced, single mother, she later moved with
her two young children to the Willamette Valley where she attended Western Oregon University and
earned a bachelor’s degree in Humanities.

After a stint as an elementary school teacher, LaVonne mentored homeless and runaway youth in
Marion County and connected them with vetted shelter-care providers. This was followed by a stint in
Washington County working with teens aging out of foster care. All the while she and her husband Tom
cared for their family, which by then had grown to four children.

In the mid-1990s, LaVonne was diagnosed with breast cancer and endured months of treatment at
Oregon Health Sciences University until the disease went into remission. Soon after, Northwest Regional
Educational Laboratory in Portland brought LaVonne on board to serve as a trainer of educational equity
for educators throughout the Northwest and the Pacific Islands. While serving in that position, she
penned articles on the topic of educational equity and also earned a Master of Public Administration
from Portland State University.

For over 16 years, LaVonne worked as a government performance auditor. She was hired as a Senior
Management Auditor at the Multnomah County Auditor’s Office in 1998 and later went on to serve as
the elected Multnomah County Auditor. In 2009, LaVonne was elected the Portland City Auditor. As the
City Auditor, she oversaw several divisions requiring a high level of independence and ethical judgment
from managers and staff, including government performance auditing, elections, archives, ombuds
office, and additional accountability functions. Throughout her many years working as a staff auditor
and then as an elected auditor, she was a member of an international committee shaping the course of
local government auditing throughout the U.S. and in several Canadian jurisdictions.

After leaving office, LaVonne went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in writing from Portland State
University and has since pursued a successful writing career. LaVonne’s personal essays have appeared
in Oregon Humanities Magazine. Her story “Eureka” was featured in the 2019 Clackamas Literary
Review, and Severn River Publishing has published her successful four-part Maggie Blackthorne mystery
series set in Eastern Oregon. LaVonne lives in Northeast Portland with Tom, her husband of 41 years.
They have four grown children and four grandchildren.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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