Update 5 PM: Jeff Cogen has confirmed—not to this paper, even though we were the first to raise these issues publicly, in a post Friday, and called Cogen about this last week and then repeatedly today—that Sonia Manhas joined him for a work trip earlier this year where he used county money to pay for a King Deluxe hotel room they used for a tryst.
Cogen claimed he couldn't remember any other trips besides one shown in records in February 2012. He also wasn't telling the truth when he said, through a county spokesman, that he wasn't talking to the media about his affair. That statement came to me not long before he went on KGW to talk about his pain and give apologies.
Meanwhile, the four county commissioners, Loretta Smith, Diane McKeel, Judy Shiprack, and Deborah Kafoury, have just issued a statement saying they've asked for an outside investigation of Cogen's actions.
"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."
Update 7:20 PM: Never mind county law: Did Cogen break state law by spending close to $1,000 in county money on a hotel room he shared with his lover? (A hotel room two miles away from the one he'd initially booked at a cheaper rate and with less romantic accommodations. (His king deluxe room at the Loews Atlanta hotel has floor-to-ceiling windows and 19th- to 23rd-floor views to appreciate through those windows.)
ORS 244.040 is explicitly clear that government officials can't use their station to enjoy financial perks. Like a free vacation with your sweetheart on the government's dime.
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, a public official may not use or attempt to use official position or office to obtain financial gain or avoidance of financial detriment for the public official, a relative or member of the household of the public official, or any business with which the public official or a relative or member of the household of the public official is associated, if the financial gain or avoidance of financial detriment would not otherwise be available but for the public officials holding of the official position or office.
Original post, 2:24 PM: As the Mercury first pointed out Friday, Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen's travel documents—part of the dumping of public documents following his admission he slept with a county health policy manager for nearly two years—included some odd notations for a trip he took to Atlanta earlier this spring.
This April, Cogen flew back to Atlanta for a different conference, but apparently without [Sonia] Manhas. His reports from that trip aren't incriminating but are contextually interesting. He caused some consternation among staffers by checking a second suitcase when flying there and back, something he said was because he packed so many suits. But it was only scheduled for a three-day trip—and Cogen flew back a day early, also costing the county more money. He also insisted on getting a Deluxe King room with a king-size bed.
Now there are new questions about that trip, as I first noted on Twitter this morning. 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.
I called Cogen's cell phone to ask about the synchronicity and also reached out through county spokesman David Austin.
Austin said Cogen relayed a message: "He told me he's not going to talk about this issue with the media."
We'll update when that changes.
Update 3:30 PM: Cogen has changed his mind about talking "about this issue with the media"—or he wasn't telling the truth when he had Austin tell me that a little after 2. KGW has posted still photos and quotes from a recently taped exclusive in-studio sit-down with Laural Porter. It's airing at 4 pm today.