Gov. Tina Kotek appointed LaVonne Griffin-Valade to serve the remaining 18 months of former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan's term. Fagan resigned after Willamette Week uncovered her $10,000 a month side gig consulting for the dispensary chain La Mota, and several subsequent allegations of ethical violations.
Griffin-Valade started working as an auditor in 1998, when she took a job as the Senior Management Auditor in Multnomah County. Voters later selected her to be the Multnomah County Auditor, and in 2009 she won an election to become the Portland City Auditor. In that role she oversaw government performance, verified electoral procedures and oversaw local archives. She retired in 2014 and has since released four mystery novels.
"I have the experience to bring back credibility, accountability, transparency and trust to the Secretary of State's office," Griffin-Valade said in a press release. "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."
Oregon Secretaries of State are the second-highest executive in state government. They have a handful of responsibilities, including maintaining a registry of all businesses in the state, auditing state agencies and overseeing elections. However, she will not replace Kotek if she vacates her office. The Oregon Constitution bars appointees from filling vacant governorships, and it would instead go to State Treasurer Tobias Read. Kotek said her selection of Griffin-Valade is meant to restore trust in the office.
"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," Gov. 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."
Griffin-Valade doesn't plan to run for a full term in 2024, according to the Oregon Capital Chronicle, and hasn't decided whether to commission a new audit of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission — which Fagan conducted while employed by La Mota.
Fagan resigned on May 2 and Deputy Secretary Cheryl Myers worked as the acting secretary for the past two months. The Oregon Department of Justice, Oregon Government Ethics Commission and federal investigators are all investigating Fagan for potential ethical, campaign finance and criminal violations.