County Spokesman: Cogen's Going Back to Work Tomorrow

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Bunkered down for days after admitting an affair with a county health policy adviser, Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen is planning on returning to work around lunchtime tomorrow, according to a county spokesman who's been calling media with that message this evening.

But as to whether Cogen will answer questions about his relationship with that adviser, Sonia Manhas, in front of the media? County spokesman David Austin says Cogen relayed he likely wouldn't be talking to reporters tomorrow and that me might not want to talk about the relationship at all. Ever. (Fat chance.)

Austin also says he sent a similar message to the four commissioners who serve alongside Cogen, Loretta Smith, Deborah Kafoury, Diane McKeel, and Judy Shiprack. All four have demanded a deep investigation of the relationship and its implications on county business—and the county attorney's office has begun one.

Cogen does have quite a bit to talk about, however. Emails and calendars and other documents released late last week show he and Manhas awkwardly juggling their secret intimate relationship with a public friendship and their professional work.

Manhas, despite having a boss above her—and Cogen, despite having staffers and advisers in place to help him vet ideas run interference when it comes to lower-level works—routinely discussed Manhas' work directly. At times, they talked about how to go around Manhas' boss, Lillian Shirley, and Manhas wrote talking points for Cogen while also pitching him policy proposals and spending proposals.

That's actually pretty serious. Manhas may have enjoyed, because of the affair, access and attention that other employees at her general place in the county pecking order would not have received.

They also flirted and scheduled time together using county email. But I email my wife from my Mercury account sometimes—sorry boss! sometimes I need to pick up groceries!—so that dripping detail I don't think we should be nearly as breathlessly concerned about. The work stuff? True, it's not as salacious as Rush concerts and emoticons... but it actually had an effect on county business. And that's something to fret over and look into.

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