Multnomah County commissioner: I had affair with staffer

Married board president admits to affair with a county administrator

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Updated: July 17, 2013, 11:43 AM

 

PORTLAND — The chairman of the Multnomah County commissioners, considered a rising star among Democrats, has acknowledged an affair with a county employee.

Jeff Cogen told The Oregonian newspaper he wouldn’t resign and denied that their relationship influenced the promotion the woman won.

Cogen, who has two children, said he told his wife about the affair Tuesday, in part “because I didn’t want her to hear it from someone else.” He said he’ll take time off to try to save the marriage.

An email circulated among county workers led to Cogen’s announcement. It said employees 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.”’

“I know I’ve let people down and I’ve thought about lots of things, including whether I should resign,” Cogen said. “But I’ve decided I shouldn’t. I need to focus on the work and on the positive things we’re doing here. I’m hoping people will forgive me. And, if not, I’ll learn the hard way.”

Cogen, 51, was elected in 2006. He was considered a strong candidate for mayor of Portland until he announced in July 2011 that he wouldn’t run. He faces re-election next year to the seat as head of the five-member county board. The job pays $136,000 a year.

Manhas is a policy adviser in the county health department. Cogen said she is separated from her husband. She didn’t respond to interview requests and wasn’t available Wednesday at publicly listed numbers for her. An email to her office got an automated reply that she was gone.

In an interview Tuesday night, Cogen denied that his involvement with Manhas had anything to do with not running for mayor.

“This is a personal relationship and nothing more,” he said. “It was two consenting adults doing something stupid.”

The affair began about 18 months ago after the two consoled each other about the deaths of their fathers, Cogen said. He said it ended about two months ago.