July 23rd, 2013 3:52 pm | by Nigel Jaquiss and Aaron Mesh News | Posted In: Politics, Multnomah County

Jeff Cogen Took Second Atlanta Trip with Sonia Manhas

Manhas confirms second trip, paid for by Multnomah County.

cogensunglassesMultnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen (center)

County Chair Jeff Cogen did not tell the truth last week about the extent of his use of county resources to conduct an affair with a county health department employee named Sonia Manhas.

In an interview one week ago today, Cogen said he had traveled with Manhas to Atlanta in 2012 for a Center for Disease Control conference and twice to Salem during the 2013 legislative session.

Asked if there were other trips, Cogen said, "Not that I can think of right now."

But public records including calendars and expense reports the county released in recent days raised suspicion the two took a second trip to Atlanta in 2013—again at public expense.

In February 2013, records show, Cogen again arranged to travel to Atlanta in April, this time with a group of 50 Portlanders visiting that city on a “best practices” tour.

Members of the Portland delegation were all booked to stay at the same hotel, the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown, where they’d pay $199 per room per night.

But records show Cogen canceled his reservation in March and rebooked a $249 room at the Loews Atlanta Hotel six blocks away, specifying that he wanted a king-size bed. Manhas’ calendar shows she took vacation time for April 9-11, the three days Cogen was in Atlanta.

Cogen's trip cost taxpayers $2,640. There is no indication that taxpayers paid Manhas's travel costs.

Last night, WW sent Cogen questions about discrepancies in his account of the nearly two-year long affair, and specifically about the second Atlanta trip in 2013.

Cogen declined to answer that or other questions. This afternoon he gave an interview to KGW's Laural Porter, a move seemingly designed to divert attention from questions about the Atlanta trip and other aspects of his story. During the interview, he said he won't resign.

"I'm a fighter and tenacious," Cogen told Porter. "I'm not going to just throw in the towel."

Shortly before today's print deadlines, Manhas contradicted Cogen's story.

Manhas confirmed to WW that she was with him in Atlanta during the April 2013 "best practices" tour.

The health department policy and planning director, who is separated from her husband, declined to comment on the 2013 trip but confirmed to WW that she and Cogen were there together.

UPDATE, 4:35 pm: Cogen has now admitted the second trip to The Oregonian. His admission went online 30 minutes after WW posted confirmation that Cogen and Manhas took the trip.
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