PORTLAND -- Documents obatined Thursday night by Newschannel 8 reveal that Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen was one of two references listed on Sonia Manhas' application for a job promotion.
Cogen earlier this week admitted to an 18-month-long affair with Manhas, a county employee. She received that promotion, and is now the director of policy and planning for the county health department.
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. Former health officer Gary Oxman explained the county’s hiring process to KGW and said he sat on the panel that interviewed Manhas as well.
“We asked our questions, got our answers and gave our findings to the health department director, who ultimately made the decision about the hire. That's very typical for a county hiring process,” Oxman explained.
He said it did not seem as though any pressure from above led to Manhas' promotion.
Meanwhile, the Multnomah County Attorney's office said it has begun an official investigation into their relationship.
The investigation will determine whether any public policies were violated due to Cogen’s relationship with Manhas. Their affair was revealed Wednesday after county officials received an anonymous email, which led to Cogen's admission and apology.
Still, some constituents believe Cogen should resign over the relationship with his subordinate.
County commissioners expressed disappointment over his conduct, but have not recommended that he resign. A statement released late Wednesday by commissioners Deborah Kafoury, Loretta Smith, Judy Shiprack and Diane McKeel said:
“As the four independently elected county commissioners, we are certainly disappointed by Chair Cogen’s conduct. We consider much of the situation to be a personal matter for him to deal with on his own. However, there are significant questions to be answered with respect to the county’s business and to ensure that the standards of Multnomah County are upheld. We expect a sufficient inquiry by the County Attorney to provide answers for the people of Multnomah County. We remain committed to maintaining the county's vital services to our citizens and upholding the professional standards that the residents of Multnomah County have come to expect and deserve.”
The board on Thursday morning had its first public meeting since news of the affair surfaced. Cogen did not attend and the commissioners present did not discuss his relationship with Manhas, either.
KGW reporter Mike Benner contributed to this report.