PORTLAND – Multnomah County Commissioners called Thursday morning for the immediate resignation of county Chair Jeff Cogen after news of an affair with a county worker surfaced.
After consulting a county attorney Wednesday, commissioner Judy Shiprack called for the resolution to be held at 9:30 a.m. Commissioners voted for unanimous consent in order to call for Cogen's resignation.
But the vote has no legal backing and serves only as a formality.
County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury was the first to give a statement after the vote.
"This has obviously been a huge distraction in the public eye and it needs to end," she said. "My biggest concern is supporting the amazing county staff as we support our core mission.”
Commissioner Loretta Smith then gave her statement.
“Our constituents do not deserve, nor are they requesting, a board that is fractured, non-responsive, tentative, experiencing distrust and having difficulty working on behalf on the broader community," she said. "That unfortunately is where we find ourselves now.”
Cogen apologized for the affair and said the investigation's findings should come out before people make any rush to judgment.
“I made mistakes, big ones," he said. "My affair has caused--I have caused--tremendous pain and I have let people down, especially my wife, my family and my loved ones.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the Oregon Attorney General confirmed an investigation into Cogen's relationship with a subordinate would begin. The investigation came at the request of the Multnomah County District Attorney and Sheriff's Office.
"Given the attention this issue has received in Multnomah County, the district attorney and the sheriff want to ensure that the matter receives a fair and impartial viewing,” Multnomah County Spokesman David Austin said.
In a letter sent to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum Wednesday, Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill and Sheriff Daniel Staton requested the criminal investigation.
“As presented to the public the facts could lead some to question whether any Oregon criminal laws have been violated. Without expressing any opinion as to whether any criminal laws have been violated or not, we have concluded that an investigation to answer that question is warranted,” the letter says.
The woman involved with Cogen, county health department policy and planning director Sonia Manhas, resigned from her position just hours before the announcement.
On Wednesday evening, KGW spoke with Manhas, who said she thinks Cogen should resign.
“It’s time for Jeff to resign. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a man and a woman in the same situation to be held to a different standard," she said. “Both Jeff and I need to step aside so Multnomah County can get back to its important work on behalf of the community.”
Cogen has been at work all week and said he has no plans to resign from his position with the county.