November 8th, 2013 | by Nigel Jaquiss and Aaron Mesh News | Posted In: Multnomah County, Cops and Courts

Department of Justice Won't Charge Jeff Cogen with Any Crimes

Report discusses pot and cocaine allegations, and identifies tipster who revealed Cogen's affair with Sonia Manhas

cogenprizeFormer Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen

The Oregon Department of Justice today declined to charge former Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen with any official misconduct or drug crimes stemming from his two-year affair with county employee Sonia Manhas.

The attorney general's office released a 106-page report this afternoon in the wake of leaks, first reported by WW, that the investigation had expanded to include drugs.

The report finds insufficient evidence to prosecute Cogen for any crimes.

Investigators working under state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum found Cogen violated no rules when Manhas received a county promotion—although several colleagues questioned her selection, and witnesses testified Cogen's involvement was unusual. 

The DOJ investigators also failed to find evidence that Cogen's effort to save Manhas' department from budget cuts was motivated by their affair.

And they determined Cogen's use of county money to move to a more expensive hotel room during a 2013 trip to Atlanta wasn't a misuse of public funds—because county rules allow officials "latitude to book their own travel without approval from anyone."

The DOJ report was released tonight following revelations by WW and The Oregonian that the investigation had expanded to include an allegation that Cogen useds illegal drugs while in office.

The report says Manhas told investigators she and Cogen used marijuana together, and that he told her he had used cocaine recently. She also said she saw him with a pill he said was ecstasy.

The report says:

Manhas stated Cogen is a “dead head” and follows the Grateful Dead lifestyle. She discussed the fact he has two personas; the one people know as Chair Cogen, and the “dead head”. She said he has told her that he has used cocaine historically and in the recent past. She stated she had never seen him in possession of cocaine or using cocaine. Cogen told Manhas he uses cocaine with, and gets cocaine from his friend “Jeremy” (later identified as Jeremy Friedman, an attorney in California.) She did not know Jeremy’s last name but believed he lived out of state. She did not know how often Cogen uses, has used, or is in possession of cocaine.

Manhas has seen Cogen in possession of what he purported to be ecstasy. She told me there was one occasion in which they were together when he showed her the pill, telling her it was ecstasy. Manhas said she did not take the pill and did not believe Cogen did either.

DOJ investigators also interviewed Jeremy Friedman, who told them Cogen didn't use drugs at work—but refused to say whether he and Cogen use cocaine together.

The report also says Manhas' lawyer, Krista Shipsey, emailed investigators Aug. 12 to say Manhas knew Cogen used marijuana before attending weekend obligations—especially parades.

"Jeff often told Sonia that he was smoking pot before going to community events scheduled on the weekends, like community parades or firs [sic]," Shipsey writes. "She recalls the St. John's parade on May 11, 2013. There should be a text that supports this. It might have been for other parades such as the Gay pride parade on June 16 of Good in the Hood parade on June 29."

In the same email, Shipsey offered details of the affair, saying the relationship was still going when Cogen confessed.

Although not evidence of wrongdoing or a crime, Sonia is nevertheless frustrated with Jeff's dishonesty in his statements to the press.
1. Open Marriage: Jeff told Sonia that the first ten years of his marriage was an open marriage-there was no intent to be monogamous. That changed when his wife wanted children, but they were both "allowed" to sleep with other people when out of town.
2. End of relationship: The relationship was not over when the story first broke. Jeff stated it ended in May, but they were still talking about their path forward. They talked about jeff [sic] not running for Chair for another term. Jeff went so far as to consult a head hunter about what work opportunities would exist for him and he told both his chief of staff, Marissa and his wife Lisa that he was seriously considering not running.

Among the report's many bizarre details are the places Cogen and Manhas had sex.

The report says:

Manhas acknowledged she made two trips to Salem to attend legislative sessions. She acknowledged that on both occasions during the return trip from Salem they stopped to engage in sex; one time at a hotel and another at the home of a relative of Cogen’s.

Another thread in the report is whether Manhas deserved the promotion she got to the position of director of policy and planning for the county health department.

One of the women involved in the interview panel, Rachel Banks, a health department manager, told investigators that based on Manhas' performance in front of the interview panel, she didn't think Manhas deserved the promotion.

"Banks she and the majority of the interview panel did not feel Manhas interviewed well or was yet qualified for the Policy and Planning position. She explained that the panel’s concerns were clearly outlined to [health department director Lillian] Shirley at the conclusion of the interview," the DOJ report says.

Multnomah County Chief Administrative Officer Joanne Fuller told investigators Manhas' decision to use Cogen as a reference was unusual.

"She told me that it is rare that an employee would list a political person based solely on the fact it would come across as name dropping," the DOJ report says.

Health Department Director Lillian Shirley told investigators Cogen came to her in 2012, looking to find Manhas a better job.

"Shirley told me Cogen approached her at one point last year," an investigator writes, "and discussed making Manhas the Sustainability Director. Shirley did not approve of this move as Manhas had no credibility or experience in the sustainability world."

Ultimately, the DOJ decided Manhas' promotion did not violate county policies, the report says.

"Based on my review of the promotional process, it fell within the established policy, procedure and practice of Multnomah County. No evidence was located or presented that showed that Cogen, Manhas and/or Shirley conspired in any way during this process. Multnomah County employees’ concerns with the process centered mostly on the appearance that Manhas was pre-determined to get the position, that the position should have been a national recruitment based on its importance, and that Manhas had been appointed when she was the only candidate rather than using the interview panel to make the appointment a competitive process."

Investigators paid particularly close attention to Cogen finding last-minute funds to save Manhas' department from budget cuts, a story first reported by WW on July 30.

The report says it wasn't possible to tell if Cogen's affair affected the budget choices he made during the relationship.

"I did not find any evidence to support the fact Cogen or Manhas conspired to increase the budget based solely on their personal relationship," an investigator writes. "More evidence exists to suggest Cogen personally and politically supports the actions of the Health Department, and that he and Multnomah County have gained notoriety for the work accomplished by the health department and projects Manhas has been involved with."

The DOJ report also identifies the original tipster who sent the anonymous July email that forced Cogen to confess the affair.

The tipster is identified as former county health department employee David Hudson. He reported to Manhas.

Hudson was unhappy, the report says, because Manhas chastised him for having a white male as a speaker at a health department event at Kennedy School. Manhas replaced the speaker with Cogen and County Commisssioners Loretta Smith and Deborah Kafoury.

After receiving the anonymous email, Cogen confessed to an affair with Manhas. He claimed he used no county resources to conduct the affair, and did not help advance her career.

But county documents released in the wake of his confession showed he helped Manhas get a promotion, and used county money to travel with her to a conference in Atlanta. WW also revealed that Cogen had protected $225,000 in funding for her office's programs while they were having an affair.

The Department of Justice agreed in July to investigate Cogen's possible misuse of county funds. Cogen resigned in September.

WW first reported Wednesday that the DOJ expanded the scope of its inquiry and questioned Cogen’s associates about his alleged illegal drug use based on information from a witness.

The investigative report also shows that Manhas lost confidence in the DOJ's investigation after Cogen resigned Sept. 26.

Here's an email that Shipsey, Manhas' lawyer sent to DOJ investigator Mike Wells on Sept. 26.

Mike, knowing that really nothing can happen to Jeff, Sonia doesn't want to expend the money to have me review or even work with DOJ anymore. She is quite frustrated right now, feeling like she was pushed out of her job and not as much consequence to Jeff. I am not going to push her on this. I doubt the texts from Jeff really matter at this point anyway. Just wanted to let you know. Krista

 
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