Citing family, Jeff Cogen resigns

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Citing family, Jeff Cogen resigns

Today, Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen announced his resignation, effective September 16.

"I’ve always told my children that we must face the consequences of our actions. It is time for me to follow my own advice. Over the past several weeks, I have been reflecting both on the mistakes I have made, and on the best interests of Multnomah County government and the people that it serves. People want to move on from this distraction. They deserve to.

His full statement is below.

So, what's next? Per the County Charter (pdf), a special election will be held in May. Until that time, Cogen's seat will be filled by his previously-designated successor, chief of staff Marissa Madrigal.

The May special election will occur concurrently with the regular election for the seat. In the event that no one earns a majority, there will be a special run-off election, at a date determined by the county board. (The charter is silent on the date of that special run-off, so they could either schedule it quickly in the early summer - or hold it to run concurrently with the November general election run-off.)

Who's going to run? Among others, the obvious candidates include all four members of the county commission.

But here's the wrinkle: The county charter has a resign-to-run rule. Should Commissioners Deborah Kafoury, Diane McKeel, or Judy Shiprack file to run for the Chair seat, they'd have to resign their commissioner seats immediately. Commissioner Loretta Smith would only have to resign her seat if she were to file in 2013. In 2014, she'll be in the last year of her term, and so resign-to-run doesn't apply. (Incidentally, resign-to-run would also apply to DA Rod Underhill. But Sheriff Dan Staton and Auditor Steve March are good to go in 2014 without resigning their posts.)

Finally, a personal note: It's been my privilege to call Jeff Cogen a friend since long before he was elected to public office, and my honor to work for his political campaigns. Jeff has been one of the finest public servants I've ever seen. He's a creative policy-maker, an aggressive and thoughtful advocate, a progressive to the core, and one of the most kind and generous people I know. Which, of course, is what made this entire saga so terribly painful.

Obviously, Jeff screwed up royally. I'm glad to see him prioritizing his relationships with his family. It's also a measure of his selflessness that he's stepping aside, ending the drama, and letting Multnomah County move on without him.

I don't have any idea what's next for him professionally. I'm hopeful that some organization in this town will recognize his skills, forgive him his sins, and put him to work helping to make our community a better place. He's still got a lot to contribute, and Portland will be a better place if Jeff Cogen is contributing his talents.

His full statement on the jump...

Statement from Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen

Today I am announcing my resignation as Multnomah County Chair effective September 16, 2013. In accordance with the county charter, my appointed designee, Marissa Madrigal, will serve as Chair until the election of my replacement next May. I am confident that the county is and will remain in good hands, and that its successes will continue.

Earlier this summer I acknowledged having an affair with a county employee. My actions were heartbreaking for my wife, Lisa, and my children. And 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.

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.

I am truly proud of our achievements at Multnomah County during my tenure: from forging important new partnerships like the Gateway Center for Domestic Violence and the Mental Health Crisis Center, to finally tackling long-overdue projects like the Sellwood Bridge and the Gresham and downtown courthouses. Together, we secured stable funding for our libraries, saved the Oregon Historical Society and built and grew innovative, cost-effective services like the CROPS farm, SUN Schools, and our anti-obesity and community healing initiatives. These, and a host of other, actions have elevated community trust in county government.

But leadership is about more than a set of accomplishments. It is also about accountability.

I’ve always told my children that we must face the consequences of our actions. It is time for me to follow my own advice. Over the past several weeks, I have been reflecting both on the mistakes I have made, and on the best interests of Multnomah County government and the people that it serves. People want to move on from this distraction. They deserve to.

Continuing in my job as county chair runs counter to the higher standards I have espoused for my almost seven years of elected service. I can’t demand more of others than I expect of myself. The most important work I can do now is healing and repairing my bond with my wife and my family. It’s time for me to give that job my full attention.

This is a community with a long, inspiring history of community engagement and I intend to continue serving this community that I love. But now, I need to do so as a private citizen rather than county chair.

It’s been an honor to serve my fellow Multnomah County residents. Thank you for the privilege.

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