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Jeff Cogen resigns as Multnomah County chair

Says pending state investigation will clear him of legal charges.


Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen, tarnished by a well-publicized affair with former county health manager Sonia Manhas, announced Friday that he's resigning his post effective Monday.

The decision means his former chief of staff, Marissa Madrigal, will step in and fill his term until a replacement can be elected in the May primary.

Cogen's peers on the county commission had called for his resignation, but he pleaded with the public to give him a chance to clear allegations that he misused county resources or violated laws. He apparently decided not to await the results of a pending criminal investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice.

"I know my behavior was disappointing for my staff, county employees and the people of Multnomah County who entrusted me with this important leadership position," Cogen stated in a prepared release.

"I am deeply sorry that I failed to live up to that trust, and for the pain my actions have caused. After the affair was revealed, media reports were filled with unfounded allegations suggesting that I had abused my position to advance Sonia Manhas’s career and that I had misused county resources to carry out our affair. These baseless charges are being investigated by the Attorney General’s office. I welcomed the investigation and remain confident that it will clear me of these charges."

A new county chair will be elected next year, and Sept. 12 is the first day to file for the May primary election.

Political insiders say Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury is a leading prospect to run for the post.

Kafoury, 46, would have to resign her commissioners’ job the day she files to run. She said Friday she wants to give the issue more consideration.

“I really need time to think,” she said.

Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack said she is among those urging Kafoury to run. “I’m going to be much more comfortable with someone that understands county government and the work the county does and the mission of the county,” Shiprack said.