Jeff Cogen
  • Jeff Cogen
We weren't invited to his "tearful" confession last night in the county building, but the Oregonian last night reported that Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen—a politico whose name has been whispered in talks about Governor Kitzhaber's 2014 plans, among others—admitted to having an affair with a health policy adviser that has since ended.

I'll get to the poll, but first a little editorializing...

Cogen, to his credit, came clean when confronted—a decision helped by an apparently anonymous email circulating among county employees this week that claimed Cogen and the policy adviser, identified as Sonia Manhas, had been spotted around town in public displays of affection. And he's decided not to resign, just less than a year before his presumed primary re-election. Fine. So far. The mere act of an affair isn't enough to drive someone from office—a case in point being former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

But Cogen still has much to prove—even after denying the insinuation that, because of their relationship, he somehow helped Manhas rise through the county's ranks.

Is he lying about that? Definitively proving otherwise will require more than his assurances, as earnest as they might be. Voters need to see a credible outside investigation—maybe by the state attorney general's office. And that's as much for Manhas' sake as it is for Cogen's. Cogen's political aspirations hang in the balance, but so does Manhas' professional reputation. If Cogen's telling the truth, she deserves a clear finding that she rose through the ranks because of her own skill and accomplishment.

And then there's the question of whether Cogen ever took advantage of his position as leader of the county in coercing Manhas into prolonging or entering the affair. Cogen told the O they were two "consenting adults," but Manhas has, according to reports, declined to comment. Again, Cogen's word shouldn't be the only one we hear on that, no matter how earnest he might be.

And here's a little bit of media criticism: What's up with KATU going to Cogen's house? My Twitter feed last night blew up with opprobrium when reporters at the TV station started bragging about how they hunted him down because he ducked their cameras outside his office. Cogen's got a wife and kids who totally didn't need grandstanding TV journalists smearing one of the worst days of their lives into their faces where they sleep. Especially since Cogen had already admitted to other media what he had done. KATU's shenanigans would have added nothing to the story.

Okay. Finally. Here's the poll.