Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen defended himself at a board meeting Thursday as county commissioners called for him to resign in the wake of his affair with a county health employee.
When it came time to vote on a resolution asking him to resign, all four commissioners voted Cogen should step down, but Cogen himself voted no, resulting in a 4-1 final tally. The resolution needed to be approved unanimously.
Cogen acknowledged mistakes and said he has caused "tremendous pain," but he asked for an investigation to conclude before a rush to judgment on his career is made.
"I deserve a chance for the facts to come out. And the community does, too," Cogen said.
He said it's "time to put the distractions aside and get back to work."
During the public comment portion of the meeting, 18 out of 20 people voiced their support for Cogen and asked that he remain chair of Multnomah County.
"We expected that he would bring his supporters out. He's the chair. He's a longtime political person. We expect nothing less than what happened today," said County Commissioner Loretta Smith.
Cogen is the county's highest-ranking official. He admitted to an affair with county worker Sonia Manhas last week after an anonymous email ended up in the hands of two Portland newspapers.
"Employees at Multnomah County have spotted Cogen kissing 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.
Documents show Cogen served as Manhas' reference to get a job promotion during the affair.
The Oregon Attorney General's Office has since announced a criminal investigation into the relationship.
Manhas resigned from her job in the county health department Wednesday, but Cogen refuses to step down.
"I believe the investigation will find no abuse of power," he said. "We have a system based on fact-finding before condemnation."
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