August 21st, 2013 | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Politics, Multnomah County

Ethics Commission Rejects County Employee's Complaint Against Jeff Cogen

cogenfoodMultnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen

A veteran Multnomah County employee has filed a complaint with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission against county Chairman Jeff Cogen for presiding over a board resolution July 25 that called for Cogen's resignation. 

The resolution came on the heels of revelations that Cogen had carried on a nearly-two-year affair with Sonia Manhas, also a county employee. Details of the affair led Cogen's four colleagues on the county board to seek his resignation.

Here's the substance of the complaint filed by Stephen Young, who works as a county mental health clinician. 

 


WW obtained Young's compliant from the Ethics Commission this morning. When contacted, Young stressed he filed it as a private citizen and on his own time.

Young says he found it troubling that Cogen led a proceeding in which his behavior and continued employment as the county's top official was the topic.

"In essence, he was voting on something that had a potential financial impact on him personally and he led the meeting," Young told WW. "It clearly had the appearance of a conflict of interest."

But Ron Bersin, the ethics commission's executive director, found that because the board had no ability to force Cogen to resign, the vote did not violate state laws.

"The resolution Mr. Cogen voted on was a non-binding resolution, therefore he was not met with a statutory conflict of interest," Bersin wrote to Young on July 31. "I'm sorry that we will not be able to help you with your concerns."

Young, a 14-year county employee, is disappointed with the ruling but says he understands Bersin's logic.

"Do I wish the law were different? Young says. "Well, sure."

Cogen declined to comment on the complaint.
 
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