News | Oregon

County Investigating If Affair Violated Workplace Rules

OPB | July 17, 2013 2:22 p.m. | Updated: July 17, 2013 9:26 p.m. | Portland

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Multnomah County officials are investigating to see if any workplace rules were broken when County Chair Jeff Cogen and a county employee had an affair.

Sonia Manhas (OPB file photo)

Sonia Manhas (OPB file photo)

April Baer / OPB

Cogen says he had an affair for more than a year with Sonia Manhas - a director at the county’s health department.

Both Cogen and Manhas are married with children.

An email sent under the pseudonym “Margie Smith” publicized the affair and went on to allege the affair helped Manhas secure a promotion to her current job.

That’s not the case — according to Cogen and other county officials, including former top health officer, Gary Oxman, who served on Manhas’ interview panel.

County personnel rules forbid sexual relationships between a supervisor and a direct underling.

County ethics rules also require disclosure of intimate relationships when the people involved are within the same “supervisory chain.”

County officials say they’re investigating, but suggest the requirements may not apply, because two levels of administration separated Manhas from Cogen.

However, the two have lobbied in Salem together and they traveled to Atlanta for a health conference, last year.


Response from the other Multnomah County Commissioners

“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.”

Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, District 1

Commissioner Loretta Smith, District 2

Commissioner Judy Shiprack, District 3

Commissioner Diane McKeel, District 4

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