Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen's battle to save his job Thursday degenerated from a sex scandal into a war of the sexes.
That's partly because Cogen is trying to salvage his career when the health department employee he had an affair with, Sonia Manhas, resigned under duress Wednesday.
Women leaders—including County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, City Commissioner Amanda Fritz and the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for Women—have decried this as a double standard.
But it's also because Cogen's character witnesses at Thursday's commission meeting (some of whom he recruited to speak at the meeting) decided to not just defend Cogen, but scold the four women on the county board of commissioners.
The speakers suggested the commissioners—Kafoury, Diane McKeel, Judy Shiprack and Loretta Smith—were angling for his job. They also resurrected the "Mean Girls" label from the county commission Diane Linn ran a decade ago.
"I thought it was a little offensive to call us 'Mean Girls," Kafoury tells WW. "I'm not a girl. And I'm not mean."
During more than 30 minutes of mansplaining from citizens, Cogen never stopped the speakers or reminded them not to engage in personal attacks.
Here is what they said.
“I‘ve met Deborah once. I’ve never met the rest of you. None of you. I don’t know who you are, but I will work against every one of your reelection campaigns in the future, because what you are doing is wrong, wrong, wrong and I dislike you four." — Jimmy Whittenburg
“The Brooklyn in me can still sense when people are piling on. It is in the nature of the press when a sensational story like this quickly turn from reporting the news to trying the accused but that kind of response did not belong in this room when the so called Mean Girls were sitting in your chairs and it does not belong here today." — Edward Hershey, occasional Oregonian contributor
“We are going to vote against you actively, all of you. We have a new group of Mean Girls in the office now. I hate to say that, but that’s what this represents. I think that each of you are a disgrace to your office." — Whittenburg, again. (Eventually, he tore up his voter registration card and demanded the commissioners quit following him on Facebook.)
"I hope and I pray that there is not political motivation here. That somebody doesn’t want his job. And that might be a big force behind this resolution." — Ted Blaszak, owner of signature gathering firm Democracy Resources and major Cogen donor
"I’m very glad to not be Mrs. Jeff Cogen today. But I’m also very glad to be a Multnomah County resident and taxpayer under the leadership of Jeff Cogen. This is a diversion. This is beneath this body. If you’re looking for punishment may I remind you historically, we used to put people in public stocks in public squares to be humiliated and insulted.” —T.J. Browning, former police budget advisor
Several citizens who spoke toward the end of the meeting struck back.
“Every individual who has discredited these women up here is absolutely selfish. These ladies are now potentially going to be discredited if they seek a promotion just like the individual you had an affair with was asked to resign and did resign." — Sawyer Sherman
WW news reporter Aaron Mesh contributed to this report.