PORTLAND –The Oregon Department of Justice said it found no evidence to support criminal charges against former Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen or fellow employee Sonia Manhas with whom he admitted to having an affair.
The DOJ investigation concluded there was "insufficient evidence" to support any drug-related charges against Cogen. However, the report includes extensive testimony by Manhas alleging frequent use of marijuana, and she also alleges that Cogen used ecstasy and cocaine.
The DOJ said it released the report quickly on Friday in response to unsourced media reports this week that Manhas had alleged to investigators that Cogen was a frequent drug user.
Manhas also said Cogen had an alternate persona as a "Deadhead" following a Grateful Dead lifestyle, and he reportedly told her he smoked pot before going to community events like the St. Johns Parade and the Portland Pride Parade on weekends. Manhas also said she and Cogen stopped for sex after two Salem legislative session trips, the report shows.
Manhas told investigators that Cogen and his wife were in an open relationship that lasted for years where he was allowed to see other people when he was out of the area, the report shows
Cogen resigned as Multnomah County Chair in the wake of public scrutiny surrounding his affair with Manhas and the subsequent investigation to determine if there was any criminal wrongdoing.
Agents interviewed numerous witnesses, including Manhas, and repeatedly sought to interview Cogen but he refused, according to the Attorney General's Office.
The DOJ said it focused on the Manhas promotion, the budgeting of her county department, and overlapping travel by her and Cogen as the basis for whether to bring criminal charges.
Manhas's promotion complied with county policies and she was qualified for her position, the DOJ said.
The DOJ found that Cogen and Manhas traveled together on work-related trips but could not find evidence that county funds were inappropriately used. Manhas joined Cogen at a conference in Atlanta using vacation time and paid for her own travel.
Portland attorney and legal analyst Bruce McCain told KGW the finding of no illegal conduct was not surprising.
“The main thing they’re looking at is whether or not former Chair Jeff Cogen used his position for personal gain," said McCain. "It’s not about whether he did something that was boorish or immoral or unethical, or may have been cause for a recall or lose his job. This was a criminal investigation which is why Mr. Cogen got himself a lawyer and reportedly refused to cooperate with investigators, which is his right.”
“We are pleased to have been able to step in when asked by District Attorney Underhill and Sheriff Staton to conduct this important investigation,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said. “The Department of Justice takes very seriously its role assisting local law enforcement with criminal investigations, especially when they involve allegations concerning public officials.”
On Friday, KGW told Cogen about the report via text message. He replied "thank you" but said he had no comment.
Marissa Madrigal, who is currently serving as Multnomah County Chair, said the details of the investigation against Cogen should in no way reflect poorly on the county. She hopes the conclusion of the investigation will bring the “difficult chapter to a close.”
Background: Cogen resigns amid DOJ investigation