Text messages released tonight by the Oregon Department of Justice show that in the weeks following revelations about his affair with a Multnomah County employee, County Chairman Jeff Cogen retained strong support from Michael Hanna, the president of ASFCME Local 88.
"Fight on," Hanna wrote him, and offered the union's support for a re-election bid.
The 2,800 members of the union chapter comprise the largest portion of the county's $469 million general fund budget. (Hanna's term as Local 88 president ended Nov. 20; he remains on the union's executive board as the chief steward for the Department of County Management and Department of County Assets.)
As previously reported by WW, Hanna had warned Cogen in September 2012 that county employees knew about Cogen's two-year affair with Sonia Manhas, who was the county health department's director of policy and planning.
The text messages released tonight show that two weeks after Cogen confessed the affair on July 16, 2013, Hanna reached out to him again.
On July 29, Hanna sent the embattled chair a series of texts, pledging union support.
"Assuming the media stays quiet," Hanna wrote, "I'm fairly certain we can get ASFCME to endorse your re-election (assuming you run). Ken Allen [ASFCME statewide boss] and I are with you, we will just need to overcome the objections of the members who don't want to based on moral grounds or whatever. And when you have a minute to breathe, it would be great to go get a drink and catch up."
The texts were collected from Cogen's cell phone by DOJ investigators.
The messages also show Cogen and Manhas in constant contact for two weeks following the revelations of their affair—alternating between expressions of loyalty to each other and accusations of betrayal.
But the real news is the texts Cogen exchanged with powerful political figures, including Hanna and Democracy Resources owner Ted Blaszak, who eventually hired him for a job at the signature-gathering company.
"I'm starting to have second thoughts about a path to reelection," Blaszak wrote Cogen on July 25.
Hanna was more confident.
On July 25—the day after Manhas was forced out of her county job—Hanna texted Cogen.
"Jeff: You and Sonia are such awesome, hard-working, gutsy people," he wrote. "I feel for both of you. Let me know if there is anything I can do to support."
Four hours later, Hanna wrote: "I'm not in your shoes, but I say fight on. Fuck the haters."