July 17th, 2013 3:30 pm | by Nigel Jaquiss and Aaron Mesh News | Posted In: Politics, Multnomah County

County Attorney Launches Inquiry into Jeff Cogen's Affair

cogentourCounty Chair Jeff Cogen tours a room where workers verify the signature on the ballot on Nov. 6, 2012. - Multnomah County

Multnomah County Attorney Jenny M. Madkour told WW this afternoon that she has begun an inquiry into County Chair Jeff Cogen's affair with Sonia Manhas, a policy and planning director in the Multnomah County Health Department.

"I am the attorney for the county, so I will review all facts that come before me in terms of violations of county policy or law," Madkour says. "We are right in the thick of it right now."

Madkour says her first priority is responding to a litany of public-records requests from local media.

But she is also conducting an inquiry on behalf of the county. She declined to list the scope of that inquiry. "I don't want to characterize it at this point," Madkour says. "I'm looking at many issues. I'm issue-spotting."

As first reported Tuesday night by WW, Cogen admitted an extra-marital affair with Manhas. Cogen is married; Manhas is separated from her husband.

As county chair, Cogen is the highest-ranking official in county government. But he tried to make the argument Tuesday night that his affair did not violate county personnel policies because Manhas does not report directly to him.

"She is not my subordinate. She does not report to me," Cogen told WW Tuesday night. "And my understanding is that while what I’ve done is really stupid, really stupid, it’s not a violation or any personnel rules."

County personnel policies say an employee "may not be directly supervised by a person who is a relative, a member of the employee’s household, or a person with whom the employee has an intimate relationship. This means that the supervisor may not have any say or input into the subordinate individual’s job benefits or detriments, either directly or indirectly."

People familiar with Manhas' work habits told WW today that she was regularly in Cogen's sixth floor office in county headquarters—and that she went directly to him when she needed permission or support, often bypassing her boss, Lillian Shirley, who reports directly to Cogen.

Madkour's inquiry is likely to include an examination of that reporting relationship, although the tricky part for the county attorney is that she too reports to Cogen.

Neither Mayor Charlie Hales nor any of Cogen's four colleagues on the county commission have been willing to comment on Cogen's affair.
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