Tag Archives: Jeff Cogen

McCain: Cogen mistress tells of Dead Head toking by Multnomah County Chair. Brother in trouble?

No criminal charges against the philandering former Chair, but investigation reveals salacious details about alleged drug fueled days as leader of Multnomah County’s government!

In our last look at the Jeff Cogen affair and the ensuing investigation by Oregon’s Department of Justice, we left off in July by explaining why Cogen had little to fear from the DOJ investigation, which actually provided Cogen with temporary cover and an excuse not to immediately resign. We recounted the results from previous DOJ investigations into high profile officials, ranging from Portland Mayor Sam Adams to DPSST Director John Minnis. In each instance, the officials who were the target of the investigation were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the Oregon Attorney General’s office.

Jeff Cogen grateful deadIn that regard, the outcome of Cogen’s case was decided before it began – and Cogen knew it. But like every investigation, there are always some surprises along the way. For example, the allegation by Sonia Manhas that Cogen led a double life – the public persona of political rising star and the private Cogen, who Manhas described as a “Deadhead” follower of the Grateful Dead lifestyle. The other more serious revelation involved Cogen’s alleged drug use, both on and off the job. While DOJ found insufficient evidence to prosecute Jeff Cogen for drug use, another Cogen family member’s problems may have just begun.

What a long, strange trip it’s been…

Lawyered Up

When DOJ launched its investigation in July, one of the first actions Cogen took was to hire Janet Lee Hoffman to represent him. Hoffman is one of the most experienced, successful and respected criminal defense attorneys in Oregon. As the DOJ report indicates, Hoffman lived up to her reputation for encouraging her clients not to give statements to police by refusing to allow Cogen to be interviewed unless the DOJ first gave her a preview of what would be asked of her client. The two sides never reached an accord on that point, and Jeff Cogen himself never gave a statement to DOJ, despite his previous public statements that he welcomed the investigation and looked forward to a full vetting of all the facts.

Cogen would not be the first Multnomah County chair facing a DOJ investigation who refused to be interviewed. When former chair Diane Linn was investigated in 2007 for tampering with public records, she also refused to be interviewed. Like Cogen, she was later cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by DOJ.

Both Cogen and Linn had every right to refuse to cooperate with investigators. Because these DOJ investigations are criminal in nature, Linn and Cogen exercised their constitutional right not to be compelled by the state to give a statement. With Hoffman in charge of protecting Cogen, the state would have to make its case against Cogen without any help or cooperation from the potential criminal defendant himself. Hoffman did her job, and did it well. And taking a final page from the Sam Adams political playbook, Hoffman declared her client vindicated by an investigation in which he refused to participate: “We’re delighted that the DOJ released its report this afternoon finding no evidence of official misconduct on his part,” Hoffman said. “This is a position he’s taken from the beginning.”

But Hoffman was not the only attorney to claim Jeff Cogen as a client. For example, Multnomah County Attorney Jenny Madkour, whose client technically is Multnomah County and not any individual employee or elected official, nonetheless told DOJ that “her clients [are] representatives from the Chair’s office, representatives from the Board of Commissioners, representatives from Human Resources, and the Chief Operating Officer. She elaborated that her clients are those county employees who are in decision making positions as well as elected positions.” There also was the revelation that Jeff Cogen was a client of his attorney brother Mitchell Cogen. And that brief snippet in the 100-page DOJ report may prove to be the most troublesome for the Cogen brothers.

Better Call Saul!

Better-Call-SaulPerhaps the most sensational aspect of the Jeff Cogen investigation was the leaked reports that Cogen was a regular marijuana user and allegedly used cocaine and ecstasy. In fact, these leaked reports prompted Rosenblum to quickly release the full, but redacted report, before more investigative details emerged without her stamp of approval.

According to the DOJ reports, “Several people provided information during interviews that Cogen is a recreational user of marijuana.” According to Manhas, Cogen also admitted to her of using cocaine and ecstasy, though she never personally witnessed that particular drug use. Based on that evidence alone DOJ correctly concluded that it could not successfully prosecute and convict Cogen of unlawful use of marijuana or cocaine. But at that point, the investigation was looking at the wrong Cogen.

Manhas told DOJ that Jeff Cogen gets his marijuana from his brother, Mitchell Cogen, and his cocaine fromobama-dope a California attorney later identified as Jeremy Friedman. When DOJ interviewed Friedman, the longtime friend of Jeff Cogen was reluctant to answer any questions related to their alleged shared drug use. In the 24-minute interview, Friedman neither admitted nor denied any knowledge of Cogen or himself using or distributing controlled substances or “engaging in any illegal activity on the past.” Friedman did make clear that he and Jeff Cogen are not business partners and Friedman never claimed to be Jeff Cogen’s attorney. The same cannot be said for Mitchell Cogen.

When DOJ contacted Mitchell J. Cogen, an attorney at Bullard Law, the recorded phone conversation lasted about a minute. Mitchell Cogen told the investigator, “I am one of Jeff’s attorneys, so I’m not interested in talking to you.” That abrupt opening remark caught the investigator off guard, who told Cogen that he thought Janet Hoffman was Jeff Cogen’s attorney. Mitchell Cogen replied that while Hoffman is his brother’s criminal defense attorney, he (Mitchell) was one of his brother’s lawyers and apparently invoked attorney-client privilege in refusing to speak with the investigator.

While that conversation closed a very brief chapter in the Jeff Cogen investigation, the implications of Mitchell Cogen’s claim of attorney-client relationship with his brother may prove problematic for the Oregon State Bar. Both Cogen brothers are members of the Oregon bar. Jeff Cogen was admitted in 1994, but has been on Inactive status for the past several years while serving on the Multnomah County commission.Mitchel J. Cogen has been an active member of the bar since 2000.

The issue is not the alleged personal drug use by either Cogen. Like many professions, among Oregon’s 11,000 attorneys, some have issues with alcohol and drugs. Thirty years ago the bar’s Professional Liability Fund established the Oregon Attorneys Assistance Program, where attorneys can get confidential help for substance abuse issues. Recreational marijuana use, though illegal in Oregon, is not likely grounds for bar discipline absent some other factor. And two Oregon bar members, who happen to be brothers, sharing their personal stash may not appear on the bar’s disciplinary radar either. But Mitchell Cogen told a DOJ investigator that Jeff Cogen is not just his brother, but is a client and presumably has been throughout the time frame that is the subject of the investigation. By claiming his brother is a client in this matter, Mitchel Cogen may have turned himself, and potentially Bullard Law, into an investigative target.

Jeff Cogen brother Mitch-Cogen1

If Sonia Manhas’ allegations are true, that Mitchell Cogen was his brother’s drug supplier, then the bar is faced with a situation where an active Oregon attorney at a large well-known employment law firm has repeatedly and unlawfully delivered a controlled substance to a client. And that is grounds for bar discipline, ranging from public reprimand to disbarment.

Unlawful Delivery of Marijuana (ORS 475.860) can range from being a violation to a Class B felony, depending on the amount delivered, the consideration paid, and the location of the transaction. Under Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(a) “it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects; or engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law; or engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.” Serving as your client’s drug dealer would likely trip one or more of those provisions.

While Attorney General Rosenblum’s investigation has cleared Jeff Cogen of any criminal wrongdoing, her investigation has uncovered possible criminal misconduct on the part of Jeff Cogen’s brother, who is an active member of the Oregon State Bar. RPC Rule 8.3 states, “(a) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects shall inform the Oregon State Bar Client Assistance Office.” Whether the Attorney General forwards her investigation to the Oregon State Bar for further investigation is unknown at this time. But one cannot help but heed these words of caution:

Driving that train, high on cocaine,jeff cogen choo choo

Casey Jones is ready, watch your speed.

Trouble ahead, trouble behind,

And you know that notion just crossed my mind.


Bruce McCain is a lawyer in private practice, member of the Reynolds School Board, retired Multnomah County Sheriff’s Captain and a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce.


Bruce McCain: Multnomah County Chair Cogen Uses Sam Adams Playbook

Cogen waiting for firing squad
Lonely Jeff Cogen.

Based on several high profile cases over the past few years, Cogen is gambling that the DOJ investigation will come up empty, allowing him to claim vindication and remain in office for the remainder of his term, which expires December 31, 2014. Whether Cogen runs for reelection is another matter, and one that is fast approaching. But for now, as his mistress Sonia Manhas wanders the private sector looking for work bearing Cogen’s scarlet letter, Cogen himself will watch as this week’s DOJ investigation gets underway, confident of its outcome.

Jeff Cogen is no dummy. A smart lawyer and savvy politician, Cogen’s political star was rising fast until he flew too close to the sun and got torched. But he has seen plenty of DOJ investigations, some up close within Multnomah County itself, to feel less concerned about the DOJ investigators than what his future spousal and child support payments may be. As with most of these types of investigations, the focus will be on whether Cogen’s conduct gives rise to criminal culpability for official misconduct.

Official Misconduct: ORS 162.415

The crime of official misconduct is one of those rare criminal statutes that can only be violated by “a public servant,” which includes public employees like Manhas and elected officials like Cogen. A public servant commits the crime of official misconduct in the first degree if, with the intent to obtain a benefit or to harm another, the servant knowingly performs an act that constitutes an unauthorized exercise in official duties.

For Jeff Cogen to be found criminally culpable for first degree official misconduct, the DOJ must find evidence that:

  1. Cogen acted in his official capacity;
  2. Cogen acted with the intent to benefit himself or harm someone else; and
  3. Cogen’s actions amounted to an unauthorized exercise of his official duties.

Moreover, to support a successful prosecution, each element must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. While many viewing Cogen’s actions and conduct relating to Ms. Manhas as easily meeting all three elements, past examples of DOJ investigations for criminal misconduct of elected and high-ranking public officials tell a different story.

Bernie Giusto

On August 1, 2005, former Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk asked the DOJ to investigate former Sheriff Bernie Giusto for his actions related to an “intervention” orchestrated by Mrs. Lee Jeddeloh for her husband, James Jeddeloh and also for the Sheriff’s handing of Mr. Jeddeloh’s application for a concealed handgun license. The DOJ investigation specifically focused on whether Sheriff Giusto’s actions constituted official misconduct. DOJ investigators interviewed 21 witnesses and reviewed hundreds of documents before concluding in January 2007 that Sheriff Giusto committed no criminal act. While Giusto eventually retired due to a potential DPSST decertification matter, his resignation was not due to a DOJ finding of official misconduct. [Disclosure: I represented Sheriff Giusto in both his DOJ investigation and DPSST matter and he’s a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce.]

Diane Linn

Diane-Linn-smallWhile the DOJ was busy in 2006 investigating Sheriff Giusto, district attorney Schrunk dropped another steaming pile on the Attorney General Hardy Meyer’s doorstep. This time, Schrunk asked DOJ to investigate former county chair Diane Linn for possible criminal misconduct related to tampering with public records. The timing could not have been worse for Linn, who was already notoriously known as the lead singer for Diane Linn and the Mean Girls. Schrunk’s request came at the end of April, just as ballots went out two weeks before the May primary election. Linn understandably charged the investigation and its timing were politically motivated. Voters didn’t care. They booted Linn and gave the job to Ted Wheeler, who rolled to an impressive win with 70 % of the vote against an incumbent female Democrat.

Linn’s investigation involved charges that she had directed a subordinate employee, Laura Bridges, to make changes to Linn’s electronic calendar to make it appear Linn was working when she allegedly was not. The allegations actually related back to 2003, when a reporter for The Oregonian filed a public records request for Linn’s calendar.

The investigation quickly became a nasty political spat involving Schrunk, who was falsely accused by Linn of having contributed to Wheeler’s campaign; and even attorney general Meyers, who had to recuse himself because he had endorsed Linn over Wheeler. Eventually, Peter Shepherd took over the investigation, which dragged on for the rest of Linn’s lame duck year of 2006.

Linn was not investigated for official misconduct, but instead for Tampering with a Public Record (ORS 162.295) and Solicitation of Tampering of Public Records (ORS 166.155(2)(a)). The DOJ wrapped up its report in April 2007, long after Linn had vacated the Multnomah Building. The investigators noted several evidentiary problems in the case which,

“taken in combination, these evidentiary problems lead to the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to establish a reasonable doubt that Diane Linn committed the crimes of Tampering with Public Records or Solicitation of Tampering with Public Records.”

As a final irony to the Diane Linn case, the Oregonian reporter whose initial public records request in 2003 started the chain reaction that lead to Linn’s departure was David Austin, who now works full time as the spokesperson for Multnomah County. Rather than chasing the Cogen story for the media, Austin has spent the past two weeks on the receiving end of his former colleagues’ questions about his boss’s illicit affair. Welcome to the Multnomah Building.

Sam Adams

SAM ADAMS AND BEAU BREEDLOVE AT A MENTORING FUNCTIONMost Portlanders, and Oregonians for that matter, are familiar with the Sam Adams affair involving teenagerBeau Breedlove. Besides admitting he lied about the affair to get elected, Adams also withered a six-month DOJ investigation that focused on many of the more prurient details we have all tried to forget. On January 21, 2009, DA Schrunk once again wanted nothing to do with involving his office in another Portland or Multnomah County political mess so, along with Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer, Schrunk asked new attorney general John Kroger to investigate Adams.

The DOJ Adams investigators focused their attention on three primary areas: 1) sex crimes; 2) official misconduct; and 3) theft. First, investigators wanted to know if Adams had sexual intercourse with Breedlove before June 25, 2005, while Breedlove was under 18 years of age, which could have resulted in criminal charges of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, Sexual Misconduct, and Sex Abuse III. Fortunately for Cogen, Ms. Manhas, a married mother of two, is well past the age of consent.

Adams was also investigated for official misconduct stemming from two unrelated events. First, was the allegation that Adams had hired Amy Ruiz, then a reporter for the Portland Mercury, in 2008 in an effort to stop her from pursuing a story about Adams’ relationship with Breedlove. Adams was also alleged to have used government resources to disseminate false information during his tenure as city commissioner and mayor. Finally, the DOJ investigated Adams for possible theft or theft by deception for statements Adams may have made in connection with his campaign for mayor.

The DOJ investigators interviewed 57 witnesses; reviewed “voluminous” City hall records, including phone and email records; and even conducted a forensic examination of Breedlove’s cell phone and three of Adams’ computers. Six months later, the DOJ wrapped up its investigation with a straightforward summary conclusion:

“We have obtained no evidence that Adams engaged in illegal sexual intercourse with a minor, committed official misconduct, or engaged in theft by deception.”

Like Cogen, Adams was asked to resign, not only by editorial boards, but also those who had supported him in the past. Not surprisingly, the Oregonian, Portland Business Journal and Portland Tribune called for Adams’ resignation. But so did Portland’s leading gay publication, Just Out, which wrote, “”Adams has failed to show the principled character that this publication feels is a basic requirement for an elected official.” Yet Adams, like Cogen today, rebuffed those calls and rode out a criminal investigation that came up empty.

Minnis-medium-214x300John Minnis

While the previous incidents cited above involved elected officials, another scandal erupted in late 2009 that did not get as much attention as Adams’ affair, but like Cogen’s, involved a power boss and a female subordinate. At the time, John Minnis was the appointed Director of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, the state agency that trains and certifies law enforcement officers. Minnis was in charge of DPSST when his agency doggedly sought to decertify Bernie Giusto two years earlier. By the end of 2009, Minnis himself, a former Portland Police officer, was facing his own DOJ investigation, loss of his own police certification and public disgrace.

John Minnis was no stranger to politics or government. Minnis spent 27 years with the Portland Police Bureau. He also served in the Oregon legislature as a Republican legislator. Minnis served in the House from 1985 to 1999, rising to chair both Ways and Means and Judiciary committees. Term limits forced Minnis to switch to the Senate, where he served one term from 2000-2004, representing his east Multnomah County district. Though John Minnis served nearly two decades in the Oregon legislature, his wife, Karen, may have had the bigger impact. Karen Minnis served as speaker of the House in 2003 and 2005 and in 2003, the Republican couple were considered Oregon’s most powerful duo in Salem.

In 2004, John Minnis was appointed by Democratic governor Ted Kulongoski to take over DPSST. Some questioned how a retired Portland Police officer could work full time as a PERS employee for DPSST. The answer is because PPB’s retirement system for police and firefighters for those hired when Minnis was hired is not part of PERS, and is therefore not subject to the retirement work restrictions covering PERS retirees. Thus, Minnis was able to pocket his PPB retirement, collect his $120,000 per year DPSST salary, and build on his PERS retirement account that included nearly 20 years in the legislature. But John Minnis was double dipping in places other than the public’s pocketbook.

According to investigative reports, Minnis had begun pursuing a female subordinate who was a secretary in his office around October 2008. Unlike Cogen’s affair, in which he and Manhas admit was consensual, Minnis was a predator pursuing prey. Minnis’ target was a married female with a known alcohol problem that Minnis exploited on multiple business trips in which they both participated. Minnis’ victim accused him of repeatedly groping her, plying her with alcohol until she passed out and making repeated unwelcome sexual advances toward her.

Things ended badly when she woke up in a hotel room naked with her clothes folded neatly at the end of her bed. Only later did Minnis’ victim learn that Minnis – a former police detective – was careful not to engage in sexual intercourse while she was passed out, but had instead, in his words, “ejaculated on the freaking sheets.” When pressed by investigators whether he had engaged in any sexual contact with his victim, Minnis sounded exasperated when he boasted:

“Look, if I’m gonna have sex with somebody I would like them to participate. I like it to be mutual between the two of us but it’s no fun uh, having sex with yourself or someone who is not participating. That’s not my style. That’s not who I am.”

Governor Kulongoski wasted no time placing his appointed sexual predator on basically house arrest during working hours. On November 23, 2009, Minnis sent an email to DPSST announcing his retirement effective January 1, 2010. Minnis made no apology for his conduct with a DPSST employee, but instead claimed he was retiring from 25 years of state service to enter the private sector. But Minnis’ legacy lingered on a while longer.

Minnis’ victim filed a tort claim with the state and a separate complaint with the Bureau of Labor & Industries, which took the rare and unusual step of actually filing a $2 million complaint against Minnis and DPSST on behalf of Minnis’ victim. The BOLI suit was settled with the state agreeing to pay Minnis’ victim a total of $450,000. Minnis was required to personally pay her $65,000, with the remaining $385,000 coming out of a risk management fund.

By all accounts, Jeff Cogen engaged in no behavior with Manhas remotely related to Minnis’ unwanted sexual aggression. Nevertheless, the county quickly covered itself in Manhas’ severance agreement in which Cogen’s mistress agreed – with her attorney’s blessing – not to sue the county over Cogen’s conduct. But the bigger lesson for Cogen is the result of the DOJ investigation into Minnis’ conduct.

Minnis took his female subordinate with him to at least three DPSST-related business trips, including Bend and San Diego. At each trip, the two ended up in one or both of their hotel rooms, with Minnis doing his best to ensure he didn’t ended up having sex with himself, since “that’s not his style.” Minnis knowingly took advantage of his female assistant’s known substance abuse issues by plying her with vodka until she passed out, only for her to awaken in the morning naked with her clothes folded neatly on her bed. Minnis cost Oregon taxpayers $450,000 to compensate his former assistant for his sexual misconduct. Yet the DOJ investigators concluded:

“ … on November 23, 2009, this office initiated an investigation into possible charges of Official Misconduct by Director John Minnis relating to his personal relationship with an employee of Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. This letter concludes that investigation. In the course of our investigation we interviewed four people, reviewed the former Director’s email account, reviewed hundreds of pages of documents relating to the former Director’s travel expenses and conducted an audio recorded interview of Mr. Minnis.

It is our opinion that we cannot prove Mr. Minnis committed any criminal acts as the Director of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training in regards to his personal relationship with a particular employee under his supervision.”

Not all DOJ investigations of official misconduct produce empty results. In August 2009 former Marion County Sheriff Russ Isham was discovered by one of his own patrol sergeants, who stumbled upon Isham in his parked SUV. Isham was in uniform with his pants unzipped. In the back seat, Isham’s former campaign manager was covering herself. DOJ investigated and was prepared to charge Isham with first degree official misconduct – not for the tryst with his female staffer in uniform – but for trying to orchestrate a departmental cover up the scandal. Those facts don’t appear to be involved in Cogen’s case.

There remains the possibility that DOJ investigators working the Multnomah Building this week will uncover some yet undisclosed smoking gun that will land Jeff Cogen in a prosecutor’s cross-hairs. But as the high profile incidents above show, Jeff Cogen could have engaged in far worse conduct with Sonia Manhas had still escaped official misconduct charges. Cogen surely knows this as well as did Sam Adams.

Bruce McCain is an attorney, retired Multnomah County Sheriff’s Captain, Reynolds School Board Member and a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce. His piece first appeared here. 

Cogen Mistress Resigns Amid Calls by Multnomah County Commissioners for Him to do the Same

Cogen Resign ResolutionSonia Manhas did one right thing. She resigned her job with Multnomah County today but she shouldn’t be the only one to fall on the sword. Jeff Cogen needs to go.

The Multnomah County Chair will be officially asked to resign tomorrow by the other commissioners. See a copy of the resolution nearby. 

From KPTV,

The resolution states Cogen’s affair “diminished his ability to provide leadership expected of the chair.” It also states he has caused an appearance of inappropriate influence to county businesses, along with “the real or perceived misuse of county assets,” that is damaging to the county’s credibility.

“The Board has lost trust and confidence in Chair Jeffrey S. Cogen’s judgment and ability to continue to provide leadership,” the resolution states.

 The Commissioners released the resolution tonight.

In OTHER news about Jeff Cogen-having-an-affair-and-having-his-kids-babysit-her-kids-while-he-got-her-a-job-and-raise-while-getting-sex-from-her,

 The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office asked the Oregon Office of the Attorney General to conduct a criminal investigation. A spokesman said the initial focus will likely be on whether any county money was misspent by Cogen and Manhas.

As an added bonus we get this from KPTV,

 As part of her resignation, Manhas will be on paid sick leave until Aug. 30 when the resignation goes into effect. She will not be able to sue Multnomah County.

How much do you want to bet Cogen makes a few calls to get her a job?



Multnomah County Commissioners Demand Investigation of Chair Cogen

Cogen SonyaFour of the Multnomah County Commissioners have called for an outside investigation of Chair Jeff Cogen. Commissioners Deborah Kafoury, Diane McKeel, Judy Shiprack and Loretta Smith are asking for an outside investigation to look into whether Cogen used County funds to bankroll his affair with underling, Sonia Manhas. 

Willamette Week got a look at a letter the Commissioners released,

“As a result of the county attorney’s initial inquiry and after consulting with Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill, we,  the Multnomah County Commissioners will be asking for an outside investigation. The investigation will seek to determine whether Jeff Cogen misused county funds or other county resources. Additionally, this investigation will seek to determine whether any county personnel rules were violated by chair Cogen. We want to assure the people of Multnomah County that the chair’s actions are being thoroughly examined. This investigation will allow the county to continue moving forward in its mission—to serve the most vulnerable populations in our community.”

loews grand king roomAnd it doesn’t come a moment too soon. Both Willamette Week and the Mercury  are scrutinizing a second trip Cogen took on the public dime to Atlanta…

Members of the Portland delegation were all booked to stay at the same hotel, the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown, where they’d pay $199 per room per night. 
But records show Cogen canceled his reservation in March and rebooked a $249 room at the Loews Atlanta Hotel six blocks away, specifying that he wanted a king-size bed. Manhas’ calendar shows she took vacation time for April 9-11, the three days Cogen was in Atlanta. 

The Smirk fills in some holes in the narrative,

A review of Manhas’ calendar shows she was on vacation the same days Cogen was gone, April 9 through April 11. Maybe it’s a coincidence. But suddenly. Cogen using county money to check a second bag, upgrade his room, and change his flight itinerary—each one a move that required extra explanation, according to records—doesn’t seem as harmless.Was Cogen alone throughout the trip? Did he spend county money on Manhas’ travel costs or on a room they used for a tryst? The timing falls within when Cogen said the two would still be seeing one another. [emph added]

It’s a good thing that Bruce McCain has done some reporting on succession strategies for Multnomah County. Find that post here.


McCain: The Cogen Affair Produces a Royal Mess

While Great Britain and much of the world celebrates the birth of the Fresh Prince of Cambridge – third in line to the

MultCo’s Royal Couple: Jeff Cogen and Sonia Manhas
MultCo’s Royal Couple: Jeff Cogen and Sonia Manhas

British crown – what happens if embattled Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen vacates his office, either by resigning or in the unlikely event of a successful recall? Cogen’s sex scandal with his subordinate squeeze, Sonia Manhas, has either ended his political career or – in the spirit of Neil Goldschmidt and Sam Adams – all but assured his election as Portland’s next mayor. With The Oregonian’s editorial board now calling for Cogen’s resignation, the pressure is mounting on the Multnomah County Chair to show he is cut from different cloth than Goldschmidt, Adams and David Wu, despite being supported by many of the same Democrats who turned a blind eye from and covered for the escapades of the aforementioned trio of perverts.

But the technical and legal answer to the county’s succession question is spelled out in Multnomah County’s home rule charter. If Cogen resigns from office, it will likely occur soon and before the year is out. In that event, say hello to the new Multnomah County Chair, Marissa Madrigal, chief of staff for Cogen himself.

The county’s charter contains a provision in §4.50 that addresses vacancies in county elective offices. The remedy for filling a vacancy depends on when the vacancy occurs in the officer’s current term of office, which typically expire December 31. There are three time-sensitive scenarios. First, if the vacancy occurs within the last 90 days of the term (e.g. in October, November or December), then the vacancy is not filled, presumably because it will be filled at the November general election or was filled at the previous May primary.

If the vacancy occurs within the final year, but with more than 90 days left (e.g. January – September) then the board of county commissioners will appoint a person to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the year. Again, the assumption is that a successor will be elected in November, or possibly even in May. But if the vacancy occurs with more than one year remaining in the term, then that’s when things get interesting.

If a vacancy occurs with one year or more remaining, “then a person shall be elected at the next May or November election date to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term of office. If no candidate receives a majority of votes cast at that election, the board of county commissioners shall call for a special election in which the names of the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes shall appear on the ballot. The candidate receiving a majority of votes cast will be deemed elected to fill the balance of the unexpired term.”

Cogen’s sex scandal with his subordinate squeeze, Sonia Manhas, has either ended his political career or – in the spirit of Neil Goldschmidt and Sam Adams – all but assured his election as Portland’s next mayor.

Cogen was first elected county chair in 2010 after serving four years as county commissioner from District 2. His first term as county chair expires December 31, 2013. He is limited by the charter to no more than two full consecutive four-year terms in any one elective county office within any 12-year period. Cogen’s initial term as District 2 commissioner was a different office than the chair, and thus the term limits do not apply to the combination of the two offices. If Cogen resigns in 2013 – with more than a year remaining on his term – then the next chair could be elected as early as November 2013, but no later than May or November 2014. So, who is Marissa Madrigal and why would she become Cogen’s immediate replacement?

The county charter requires all county elected officials to designate a person to serve as “interim occupant” to serve as acting chair, commissioner, sheriff or auditor until the office is filled by election or appointment. Chair Cogen has nominated Madrigal, his chief of staff, to serve as interim county chair until a replacement is elected. If that happens, it would not be the first time, as Cogen himself knows firsthand.

A Death in Office

Former Multnomah County Chair Gladys McCoy
Former Multnomah County Chair Gladys McCoy

Former County Chair Gladys McCoy

On April 11, 1993 then county chair Gladys McCoy succumbed to thyroid cancer. McCoy’s death created a vacancy in the office of chair and triggered the county charter interim occupant provision. McCoy had named her chief of staff, Henry C. “Hank” Miggins, to be her interim occupant. Miggins took over as interim county chair and liked the job so much, he decided to run for the office himself. The county board declared the vacancy and called for a special election to be held on June 29, 1993.

Despite having a running start as an appointed incumbent, Miggins lost his race to Beverly Stein, who took over as chair in August 1993 and went on to serve two more terms of her own until replaced by Diane Linn in 2002. Stein’s policy advisor at the time was Jeff Cogen. However, after one term with The Mean Girls in control, Linn was trounced in her re-election bid by Ted Wheeler. But Wheeler’s sudden and unanticipated departure in March 2010 triggered a political domino fall that ultimately left Jeff Cogen where he is today.

On March 7, 2010, then Treasurer Ben Westlund died of lung cancer. Two days later, then Governor Ted Kulongoski tapped Wheeler as Westlund’s replacement, and that giant sucking sound was wannabe candidates drawn to filling a slew of vacancies triggered by Westlund’s death and Wheeler’s departure from Multnomah County. Following the county charter, Wheeler’s designated interim occupant, Jana McLellan, temporarily filled the chair’s role. McLellan served as the county’s chief operating officer, but she was no politician. With several high profile candidates, including Cogen, salivating over replacing Wheeler, McLellan wanted no part of becoming another Hank Miggins and dutifully served out her role an appointed place holder.

In politics, timing is often everything. Wheeler’s departure in March 2010 occurred in the final year of his first four-year term, but also had more than 90 left in that term. So under the county charter, the special election provision, used only when more than one year remains, was not available because a regularly scheduled May primary and November general election were already fast approaching. Cogen wasted no time announcing his intention of running to replace Wheeler in the May primary. But that still left the county without a replacement for Wheeler.

Ted Wheeler, Former Multnomah County Chair and current State Treasurer

Under the charter, the board was required to appoint a person to fill out the remaining term, which was the balance of 2010. The board had several options. It could have simply left McLellan in place for the remainder of 2010 while actual candidates battled it out in May and possibly in November. But instead, on April 1, 2010, the four remaining commissioners, including Cogen himself, adoptedResolution 2010-032, declaring the chair’s office vacant and appointed Cogen to fill the vacancy. The king had been crowned. A month later, Cogen rolled to an easy May primary victory to begin his first and current term as chair, beginning January 1, 2011 and ending December 31, 2013.

Cogen’s appointment as chair in turn created a vacancy in his previous commissioner seat, which was initially filled with Cogen’s interim designee Barbara Willer. Eight candidates (not including Willer) filed to run in the May 2010 primary. In such a crowded field, no candidate could expect to capture a majority outright. Karol Collymore, who worked as Cogen’s policy advisor, captured 36% of the vote, easily outdistancing the second place finisher, Loretta Smith, who came in with 18%. Those top two primary finishers met in a November runoff, which produced a stunning result. Collymore’s 36% primary showing hardly budged in November, while Smith essentially captured all the other primary votes, rolling to an easier-than-expected 62%-37% victory.

As Hank Miggins, and later Jana McLellan, demonstrated, not all chiefs of staff are necessarily cut out to fill the role of candidate or elected official. They are often the typical policy wonks or campaign staffers rewarded for their efforts with a short-term public sector job with a shelf life often tied to that of the coat of their benefactor. If few people outside of local government know of Marissa Mardrigal, if or when Cogen resigns over his sex scandal, yet another insider will step onto the throne – at least until the next round of elections.

Marissa Madrigalmarissa madrigal

Marissa Madrigal. Next County Chair?
Marissa Madrigal. Next County Chair?

According to her official county biography, Madrigal rode Cogen’s coattails into office by doing what many staffers do – work on a winning election campaign. For Madrigal, her reward for serving as his campaign manager was a six-figure job as chief of staff to the county’s top executive officer.As Hank Miggins, and later Jana McLellan, demonstrated, not all chiefs of staff are necessarily cut out to fill the role of candidate or elected official. They are often the typical policy wonks or campaign staffers rewarded for their efforts with a short-term public sector job with a shelf life often tied to that of the coat of their benefactor. If few people outside of local government know of Marissa Mardrigal, if Cogen resigns over his sex scandal, yet another insider will step into the throne – at least until the next round of elections start the dominos tumbling again.

Madrigal may be more McLellan than Miggins and prefers working for an elected official, but wants no part of actually being an elected official. That leaves political junkies already lining up their short lists of usual suspects to replace Cogen if or when he departs “to spend time with his family.” That list would have to include one or more of the current remaining commissioners.

What Term Limits?

Three of the four district commissioners are term limited, and may be looking for another county gig. Because the county chair is considered a distinct and separate county elective office, any or all of them could conceivably and legally run to replace Cogen. Those three are Diane McKeel, who represents east county, Judy Shiprack, who represents SE and most of mid-county, and Deborah Kafoury, who represents primarily North Portland up to Columbia County. Of those three, Kafoury has the most political firepower, based in part on her own tenure and her status as the daughter of Gretchen Kafoury, a former state representative, county commissioner and Portland city commissioner. But Kafoury’s recent sponsorship of the county’s anti-gun ordinance, which the county is attempting to impose on east county cities against their will, all but dooms Kafoury’s support east of I-205.

One could also expect one or more current state legislators to trade the part-time salary and Salem commute for an office at the Multnomah Building. And of course, one cannot overlook or underestimate Commissioner Loretta Smith, who displayed her own political clout with her come-from-behind demolition of Cogen’s own protégé, Karol Collymore. If nothing else, if Smith were to replace Cogen as chair, her swearing-in ceremony could be preceded by Portland’s Baruti Artharee announcing to those in attendance,“Here’s our beautiful county chair, Loretta Smith – mmm, mmm, mmm – she looks good tonight!”

Bruce McCain’s is a practicing attorney, retired Captain of the Multnomah County Sheriffs Office, Reynolds School Board member and a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce. This post was originally posted at his blog Oregon Oracle.


Report:Mult Co Chair Jeff Cogen Used His Kids to Babysit Mistresses’ Children, Discussed Marriage & Job Promotion

A picture of Sonia on Cogen's Flickr account.
A picture of Sonia on Cogen’s Flickr account.

KATU reports tonight that Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen used his kids to babysit his mistresses’ children and discussed marriage and a job promotion with her. 

From KATU:

Hundreds of emails between Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen and Sonia Manhas paint a broader picture of their relationship – one sprinkled with flirtation, talks of private lunches and persistent smiley faces.

Here’ s the ookity part about his kids babysitting hers,

The two grabbed lunch often, went to a Rush concert together and Cogen’s kids babysat her children. 
“It’s weird,” Manhas wrote in October 2011 about the babysitting. “Yup,” he wrote back.

Then of course there’s the part about him positioning her, ahem, for a new job and 20% raise. 

…the emails show the two did talk about the promotion: Manhas forwarded the job opening to Cogen with the message: “FYI (with a smiley face emoticon).” He emailed back a smiley face. In September when Manhas got the job, Cogen emailed her: “Damn, that Sonia woman sounds great!”
Cogen has said he doesn’t believe he violated any county rules because Manhas isn’t his subordinate. 
Coincidentally, in one email sent Aug. 30, 2011, Manhas wrote in reference to a county project: “…I would rather work directly for you.”“Sounds good to me!,” Cogen wrote back.


KATU reports going through 500 emails between the two. 500.  Including ones about marriage and her job promotion,

KATU found flirtatious emails and undertones of a deeper relationship — and a whole lot of smiley faces in the emails. The two also discussed the job promotion that Manhas ultimately received.
Among the signs of something deeper: In June 2011, Manhas alluded to a conversation the two had in the car.
She wrote: “Fun last night. I’m intrigued with what you shared on the drive back about marriage. Let me know if you are interested in picking up that conversation sometime. You can also tell me if this is totally an unwelcome inquiry.”
Cogen wrote back: “Hope you’ve crossed the border into vacation. Let’s get lunch again and we can continue our conversation.”

If I’m the head of the Children’s Fund (Cogen’s wife) I’m dumping the dude. Using your kids to babysit your girlfriend’s kids while you’re having an affair? Using your influence to get a job and raise –using taxpayer funds–for the woman you’re screwing?? 

Wake up, Portland. This is what corruption looks like.