Resolution says board has 'lost trust' in Cogen in wake of affai - KPTV - FOX 12

Resolution says board has 'lost trust' in Cogen in wake of affair

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Jeff Cogen Jeff Cogen
Sonia Manhas Sonia Manhas

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners will vote on a resolution calling for the resignation of County Chair Jeff Cogen.

The resolution was made public Wednesday night. It followed the resignation of the woman involved in an affair with Cogen, Sonia Manhas, a now former county health employee, as well as the Oregon Attorney General's Office announcing a criminal investigation into the affair.

Cogen, the county's highest-ranking official, admitted to an affair with Manhas last week after an anonymous email ended up in the hands of two Portland newspapers.

"Employees at Multnomah County have spotted Chair Cogen kissing Sonia Manhas in front of the Kenton Library and in a booth and at a bar in Portland along with a few other 'sightings,'" the email said.

The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office and Multnomah County Sheriff's Office asked the Oregon Office of the Attorney General to conduct a criminal investigation. A spokesman said the initial focus will likely be on whether any county money was misspent by Cogen and Manhas.

However, there is no timetable on the investigation and investigators could broaden the scope depending on the evidence they discover.

Documents show Cogen served as Manhas' reference to get a job promotion during the affair.

"The commissioners are looking to make sure that the public's trust is maintained," said county spokesman Dave Austin.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners will vote on a resolution Thursday morning calling for Cogen's immediate resignation.

The resolution states Cogen's affair "diminished his ability to provide leadership expected of the chair." It also states he has caused an appearance of inappropriate influence to county businesses, along with "the real or perceived misuse of county assets," that is damaging to the county's credibility.

"The Board has lost trust and confidence in Chair Jeffrey S. Cogen's judgment and ability to continue to provide leadership," the resolution states.

Archived video on the county's website shows Cogen presenting Manhas with the "Chair's Excellence Award" in May 2011.

In introducing Manhas, Cogen talked about her husband and two daughters.

"Her commitment to creating a healthy community became apparent when she interrupted maternity leave to coordinate that grant application," Cogen said, referring to a grant for obesity prevention. "Working around the schedule of a newborn, she put in countless hours at home, and then put in time with county leaders including me, she was very tired at the time, with her one-year-old in tow."

In a letter to her former colleagues Wednesday, Manhas said she was "distraught to hear about the badgering by media" at her co-workers' worksites and homes.

She went on to say that her relationship with Cogen "was never about a job or salary."

"It is certainly not what a politician wants to say, but it was an affair of the heart," she wrote.

"It would be a betrayal to who I am to describe it in a diminishing way now," she wrote in the letter. "But of course, the reality is that the relationship could never have been and should never have started."

As part of her resignation, Manhas will be on paid sick leave until Aug. 30 when the resignation goes into effect. She will not be able to sue Multnomah County.

Cogen, who is married and has children, has not resigned and is back at work as the Multnomah County Chair.

He has not spoken on camera with FOX 12 about the affair, but he did speak about his marriage in a 2010 video posted on YouTube. In the video, part of a grassroots marriage equality campaign, Cogen said he wants everyone to "have the same joy and the same connection that (wife) Lisa and I have had for almost 20 years now."

READ: Sonia Manhas' email to former colleagues

READ: Resolution calling for Cogen's resignation

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