Yo, peep this, fam. Check it, former head honcho of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), Steve Marks, held it down at the agency for almost a whole decade. But yo, he got straight up fired in January. And now my man Marks ain’t takin’ that ish lying down, nah mean? He’s fightin’ back and claimin’ that Gov. Tina Kotek let him go because some cannabis biz owner had her ear.
According to the word on the street from the Willamette Week, Marks recently dropped a tort claim notice on Oregon, sayin’ that this chica Rosa Cazares, CEO of La Mota, and her partner Aaron Mitchell, who dropped some serious cash on Kotek’s campaign for governor, played a role in his termination. The claim states that “Marks was summarily forced outta office by Gov. Tina Kotek in early 2023 because Rosa Cazares, prominent owner of one of Oregon’s biggest dispensary chains and an opponent of cannabis regulations, wanted him gone.” Yo, this was submitted by attorney William Gary. The claim goes on to say that “Cazares placed herself all up in the governor’s circle and was tight with then-Secretary of State Shemia Fagan.”
Now get this, Cazares and Mitchell ain’t no small players. They dropped a whopping $68,000 on Kotek when she was makin’ her run for governor. And check it, they had a monthly contract to fund Fagan with $10,000. Damn! But that arrangement led to Fagan bouncin’ out in May.
Word is Kotek is denyin’ any connection with Cazares and Mitchell. But hold up, Marks ain’t buyin’ it. His tort claim is straight up callin’ her out. As if that ain’t enough heat, this case also points to some shady ish back in 2018. Cazares and Mitchell were accused of slingin’ 148 pounds of weed on the black market, son. The case got settled in 2020, which is the same year they were droppin’ funds on politicians left and right.
The claim says it like it is, yo. “In short, because Marks supported and carried out regulations that Cazares saw as onerous, she bought his ouster through financial graft,” it 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.”
But yo, check this out. There ain’t no explanation from Kotek as to why she fired Marks. Lawyer William Gary straight up wrote a letter sayin’, “Governor Kotek did not provide—and she still has not provided—any reason for having pushed Marks outta his position, and Marks was provided no other notice or opportunity to contest the reasons for that action.”
In May, when confronted about the situation by OregonLive, Kotek spilled some beans. She said she fired Marks ’cause she wanted new leadership at OLCC. But she also said that Cazares and Mitchell had nothin’ to do with her decision. She claimed that gettin’ rid of Marks was just one of many changes she made when she took office. And hold up, she wasn’t feelin’ the new state liquor warehouse in Canby planned by OLCC. It was gonna cost millions of dollars, man. Under Marks’ watch, OLCC dropped $84 million on bondin’ authority for that warehouse. But they eventually cut a deal to pay $40.7 million for 33 acres for the warehouse, with the state footin’ the bill.
“Yeah, so the freshest thing on my mind was the issue around the new warehouse ’cause when I was out there on the campaign trail, I remember havin’ a few choice words about that deal,” Kotek said. “Like, c’mon, you been at this for eight years and we gettin’ played on this warehouse? He was on a list of folks that needed replacin’, ya feel me?” But she also said she made the call to fire Marks before she knew about the warehouse deal.
Now here’s some tea for y’all. Back in 2022, Marks and six other OLCC managers got caught stashin’ some Pappy Van Winkle bourbon from Kentucky for themselves. They all got in trouble for that ish and eventually either got fired or quit their jobs.
So there you have it, fam. Marks ain’t backin’ down. He’s droppin’ that tort claim and callin’ out Kotek, Cazares, and Mitchell. Ain’t nobody playin’ nice in this game. Stay tuned to see how this drama unfolds, peeps.