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The Cocaine Commissioner

Is Jeff Cogen Portland's Weiner or Portland's Ford?

1:59 PM, Nov 11, 2013 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
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It’s a pity that there’s no Portland, Oregon, edition of the New York Post. After all, one can only dream of the headlines the wags at the Post would come up with to describe the ongoing travails of (now former) Multnomah County (home of Portland) Commissioner Jeff Cogen.


To review: Earlier this year, Cogen was riding high atop the county in his powerful elected office, overseeing a $1.5 billion budget and more than 4,000 employees. The Democrat was even frequently talked about as a potential future candidate for Portland mayor.

But then, in late July of this year, news broke that Cogen had had an eighteen-month affair with a subordinate, a health department official named Sonia Manhas. (They were outed by an anonymous email from someone working for the county.) What’s worse, Manhas had been promoted while the two were having the affair, spurring allegations of impropriety. Moreover, it soon came to light that Cogen had used public money to pay for a hotel room for a tryst with Manhas.

Cogen stepped down in disgrace shortly thereafter, but the hits keep coming. Late last week, reports surfaced that Manhas told prosecutors that throughout their affair, Cogen frequently smoked marijuana and dabbled regularly in cocaine. Indeed, Manhas says that Cogen even performed some of the more laborious functions of his job–attending community parades, for example–while under the influence of marijuana. The whole thing is positively Toronto-esque.

There are a few details that make the sordid story uniquely Portland, though. The person who sent the email publicizing the affair has been identified as David Hudson, who was then a colleague of Manhas’s in the county’s health department.

What moved Hudson to publicize the affair? The Oregonian has the details:

Hudson had planned a September 2011 event  . . . featuring superintendents of all the county's school districts plus an out-of-state expert on comprehensive school health as a keynote speaker.

He said that less than two weeks before the event, Manhas told him should find another speaker because county leaders wanted to showcase experts who were not white men. He was upset because she raised the issue at the last minute, after the event had been publicized and the keynote speaker's plane ticket paid for.

Jeff Cogen and Sonia Manhas: two more victims of affirmative action.

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