Commissioners call for outside investigation of Jeff Cogen

Commissioners call for outside investigation of Jeff Cogen

PORTLAND, Ore. – The twists continue in the case of Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen’s extramarital affair.

The day after he returned to work, the Multnomah County Commissioners issued a statement Tuesday that they are requesting an outside investigation of Cogen to find out if he “misused county funds or other county resources.”

The investigation will also probe whether he violated personnel rules in his two-year affair with Sonia Manhas, the policy and planning director for the Multnomah County Health Department.

The Oregon Attorney General's Office is consulting with commissioners to find an agency to conduct the investigation.

“We want to assure the people of Multnomah County that the chair’s actions are being thoroughly examined. This investigation will allow the county to continue moving forward in its mission,” the commissioners’ statement said.

Sources inside the county who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the commissioners explored other options before consulting with the attorney general's office. Those options included possible punishment or a resolution condemning his actions, although they realized any resolution would have no teeth.

News of the investigation came as new details emerged Tuesday of Cogen taking a second trip to Atlanta with Manhas.

The second trip was in 2013 and cost taxpayers $2,640, documents released by the county show. The trip was for a “best practices” tour from April 9 to 11.

Costs included $249 a night at Loews Atlanta Hotel in a room with a king-sized bed.

Manhas took vacation time over that period, county officials said. Manhas confirmed to Willamette Week she was with Cogen in Atlanta.

Manhas would not speak to a KATU reporter on Tuesday, but a man at her house said somebody from her family would address the media on Wednesday.

Cogen has not responded on Wednesday to requests from KATU for comment.

Reports of the 2013 trip show Cogen was not truthful to media outlets last week when he said he only went to Atlanta with Manhas once, in 2012.

When Cogen admitted to the affair on July 16, he said he did not violate any county policies because Manhas does not report to him.

But emails between the two released to the media show Manhas continuously went directly to Cogen about county matters, sidestepping her supervisor. The emails have also showed frequent lunches between the two and talk of the promotion she ultimately received.

While Cogen said he was not at all involved in the promotion, documents show Manhas listed him as one of two job references.