<<The former director of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission filed a tort claim notice with the state Friday alleging Gov. Tina Kotek ousted him earlier this year at the behest of La Mota CEO Rosa Cazares.
Cazares, her partner Aaron Mitchell, and La Mota contributed generously to Kotek’s gubernatorial campaign.
Kotek forced Steve Marks, who led the OLCC for nearly a decade, to resign in January. In Marks’ Friday tort claim notice filed with the state—a precursor to litigation—he makes a bombshell accusation: that Kotek fired him because Cazares, the 35-year-old CEO of the embattled La Mota dispensary chain, pushed her to do so.
“Marks was summarily forced out of office by Gov. Tina Kotek in early 2023 because Rosa Cazares, prominent owner of one of Oregon’s largest dispensary chains and an opponent of cannabis regulations, wanted him gone,” alleges the claim, submitted by Marks’ attorney, Bill Gary of the Harrang Long firm. “Cazares placed herself in close orbit to the governor and to then-Secretary of State Shemia Fagan.”
Cazares and Mitchell contributed to several Oregon Democrats, including Kotek and Fagan. The couple gave $68,000 to Kotek as she ran for governor. A $10,000-a-month consulting contract between Fagan and the cannabis couple, first reported by WW in April, caused Fagan’s May resignation.
Kotek has repeatedly denied that her relationship with Cazares and Mitchell had anything to do with Marks’ ousting.
But the claim filed Friday disputes that contention—and is the first indication from Marks since he left the agency in January that he believes there’s a link between his firing and the cannabis company.
(Kotek has also said that a scandal over the diversion of high-priced Pappy Van Winkle bourbon did not contribute to Marks’ departure.)
The tort claim notice pinpoints a 2018 case, in which the OLCC accused a company controlled by Mitchell and Cazares of diverting weed to the black market. The couple fought that case for two years before settling.
Shortly before the settlement in early 2020, Cazares and Mitchell began their generous political giving to the state’s top Democrats.
“In short, because Marks supported and carried out regulations that Cazares saw as onerous, she bought his ouster through financial graft,” the tort claim notice says. “It was under Marks’ leadership that OLCC adopted and enforced the regulatory framework that Cazares sought to dismantle….Accordingly, Cazares turned her sights to removing Marks from office.”
The tort claim notice does not include any new information. Instead, it relies on a timeline of events that, the claim suggests, illustrates Cazares’ influence on Kotek.>>
<<CleanCampPDX launched two years ago to help those living outdoors voluntarily keep their areas clean. The organization currently serves 11 encampments – with more sites in the works.
It gets grant funding from Metro, the regional government, but Hess said Portland officials have refused to work with CleanCampPDX and denied necessary permits for the dumpsters. So, she said, CleanCampPDX places the dumpsters at camps illegally.
“We could be proactive about this crisis,” Hess said, “but the political will isn’t there.”
Officials in the mayor’s office said dumpsters don’t work.
The city installed a handful at the start of the pandemic, but quickly changed course after housed residents and business owners started using them to dispose of mattresses, tires and other trash, said Skyler Brocker-Knapp, the mayor’s senior policy adviser.
City officials also feared that placing dumpsters near camps could attract more homeless people, she said.
“Every time we tried it, other community members dumped stuff there. The dumpsters really got misused,” Brocker-Knapp said. “There’s really no good way to make sure they’re just used by the homeless community.”
But Hess said depriving people of needed services like dumpsters doesn’t reduce homelessness, it simply makes people and their living conditions more miserable and is more likely to lead to environmental impacts.>>
<<Hess and others said they also have repeatedly asked the city to place portable toilets at homeless encampments, to no avail.
An initial project by the city in the early days of the pandemic met with fervent community opposition.
The city had installed more than 120 red portable toilets in 2020, calling them a human right. But they generated vitriolic complaints and many were vandalized or stolen, some apparently by people who live in homes and didn’t want the units in their neighborhood. Homeless advocates also said the portable toilets were rarely cleaned, leading to community conflicts.
<<The city quickly reversed course, removing damaged toilets. Officials with the city’s Community Safety Division also said the program downsized after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and businesses reopened, leading to “more public amenities available.” As of today, just 10 of those portable toilets are left throughout the city.
Community Safety officials said those numbers fluctuate between 10 and 20 as the locations change as homeless camps are swept.
Instead of dumpsters and portable toilets, the mayor’s staff highlight contract teams that collect trash at campsites across the city.
Most notable among them is Clean Start, an initiative of the Portland nonprofit Central City Concern, which gives people experiencing homelessness jobs cleaning up trash.
The program is about to expand as Gov. Tina Kotek and Multnomah County last month committed a combined $2.5 million to help it grow>>
<<Hess said some people who experience homelessness don’t trust Clean Start because the program mixes outreach with enforcement. Its crews are dispatched to campsites when people file complaints. In addition to removing trash, their role is to take photos and fill out an assessment for each camp, which can lead to removals.>>
<<Maeve Connor, a spokeswoman with Central City Concern, said Clean Start workers create “trusting relationships” with campers and the program has no direct say in which camps to remove, nor does it conduct sweeps.
Connor said the workers want to collect accurate information because initial complaints often contain errors — “for example, saying there are weapons at a campsite when there are not.”>>
<< Ground Score’s G.L.I.T.T.E.R. program also employs homeless people to provide tent-side garbage pickup under a contract with the city – but the cleanup program isn’t linked to camp removals.>>
<<Legacy Health leadership will be increasing security across all of its locations following the death of Bobby Smallwood, the security officer shot and killed at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center last week.
The healthcare company president and CEO, Kathryn Correia, said hospitals will adopt more robust screenings and safety improvements for doors and windows. Select security officers will also carry Tasers.>>
<<Legacy is installing metal detectors and will search bags at every hospital, she said. Some hospitals will see metal detectors as soon as Monday.
Bullet-slow film will be added to the glass at the hospitals’ main entrances, emergency departments and internal doors.
Lead security officers are now armed with Tasers, and that policy will expand to all security officers with the proper certification, Correia said.>>
<< Legacy Health announced that it will be increasing security across all of its locations after the death of Bobby Smallwood at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in Northwest Portland last weekend.
“Over the past week, our hearts have been heavy with grief and sadness in the wake of the tragic shooting that occurred,” said Legacy President and CEO Kathryn Correia in a statement Saturday. “The emotional toll of this shooting continues to ripple across our 14,000 Legacy employees and into the communities we serve.”
Correia said that over the past several days, senior leaders have worked on developing a comprehensive plan to further bolster Legacy’s already strong safety policies and practices.
Legacy will be installing metal detectors at all of its hospitals that would require a bag search for all patients and visitors who enter. Some locations will see metal detectors as soon as Monday, Correia said.
“We will install bullet-slow film on the hospital main entrances and emergency departments and on glass in internal entrances,” she said in the statement.
Additionally, lead security officers have been equipped with tasers.
Correia said, Legacy will expand the use of tasers to all security officers once proper training and certification is completed.
Each Legacy hospital location will still have room to create unique solutions that best serve their facilities and communities. >>