PORTLAND – Four 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.
Commissioners voted unanimously to call for Cogen's resignation. But the vote has no legal backing and serves only as a formality, and the resolution failed 4-1 when Cogen himself voted against it.
After the commissioners spoke, public comments were accepted. During an hour of public comment, 15 citizens addressed the commissioners speaking in favor of Cogen staying on, while two citizens joined the commissioners in calling for his resignation.
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 his subordinate would begin. The investigation came at the request of the Multnomah County District Attorney and Sheriff's Office.
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.