Do you agree with Sonia Manhas' decision to resign from the county health department?
PORTLAND – Sonia Manhas resigned from her position as the county health department’s policy and planning director Wednesday following news of her affair with Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen.
"I am deeply, deeply apologetic for the harm, disruption, and distraction that my actions have caused to the good work that Multnomah County employees, particularly that Health Department employees, take on every day as public servants," Manhas said in her resignation letter Wednesday.
She also apologized to her coworkers and colleagues.
"I let myself be led by my heart, and I take full responsibility for the choices I made in my personal life. While it is a personal matter to me, I recognize that a part of my personal world has collided with your work, and so I feel it’s important to clarify my intent with you," Manhas said in the letter.
Manhas expressed frustration when sharing her side of the complicated story.
She said she requested a meeting with officials to check on her status as an employee with Multnomah County, but was told she needed to first sign a letter of separation before any such meeting could be held.
Manhas signed the separation letter, which included an agreement not to sue Multnomah County or its elected officials, as part of her resignation. It explained that Manhas will remain on paid sick leave until Aug. 30 when she will officially resign.
"This work to improve the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors is so important, and it is incredibly painful to accept that I have interrupted and discredited any of your efforts towards the health department’s mission," she said in her resignation.
Cogen says he won't resign
Cogen returned to work Monday afternoon and said he has no plans to resign from his position at the county.
On Wednesday evening, KGW spoke with Sonia 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.”
In an emotional interview with KGW Tuesday, Cogen also revealed more information about his 2-year affair with Manhas.
Among the details Cogen shared was a confession that Manhas used vacation days to join him in Atlanta during an economic development conference in April of 2013.
When asked if they had sex on county time during that trip, Cogen said, "I don't think so."
"I work on nights and weekends, too. I don't really have a 9-to-5 job, so I don’t know how you conclude the answer to that," he said. “She was on vacation. She didn't do anything wrong except she was having an affair with me. In the evenings I would have an affair.”
Cogen and Manhas’ rendezvous was not the only time the two had spent time in Atlanta. According to documents released to KGW by Multnomah County last week, Cogen and Manhas took a work-related trip to Atlanta in February of 2012 where they attended the Communities Putting Prevention to Work Conference.
The two sat next to each other on the airplane during that trip and stayed in hotel rooms for two nights on the same floor of the Crowne Plaza, the documents showed.
Manhas also listed Cogen as a reference on her job application when she was promoted to her position as director with the county. Cogen has denied that their relationship played any role in Manhas getting the job. Documents obtained by KGW also suggested that there was no connection.
Meanwhile on Wednesday afternoon, the Oregon Attorney General confirmed it will immediately begin investigating Jeff Cogen. The investigating comes at the request of the Multnomah County District Attorney and Sheriff's Office.
KGW reporter Kyle Iboshi contributed to this report.