Arizona House ethics chairman drops investigation into Rep. David Cook
PHOENIX — An Arizona House of Representatives ethics investigation into the conduct of Rep. David Cook concluded on Wednesday.
In a letter addressed to Arizona House members, House Ethics Committee Chairman Rep. Josh Allen stated he had decided not to schedule further hearings, but said he found the investigation’s discoveries to be troubling.
“In summary, although I am deeply troubled by the investigators’ findings and Representative Cook’s subsequent behavior, I do not believe that Representative Cook’s conduct unequivocally constitutes the sort of ‘disorderly behavior’ punishable under the House’s Rules and article 4, part 2, section 11 of the Arizona Constitution,” Allen said.
In a statement, Cook said it was “great news” the committee concluded its investigation, and attributed the process to partisanship and personal animus.
“I’m still upset that this process was abused to do as much political damage and personal damage to me and my reputation as possible,” Cook said.
” … One of the reasons this whole charade was ended now was to ensure that I would never have the opportunity to call witnesses or to present any sort of defense. So we don’t ever get to go find the truth and let the public know. That lack of due process is both unjust and un-American.”
Democratic Reps. Kirsten Engel and Domingo DeGrazia issued a joint press release condemning Allen’s decision to unilaterally end the investigation and promised further action would be taken.
“The committee’s work is not finished,” Engel said in the release.
“I am flabbergasted that the chair has decided to abruptly end the investigation. I cannot understand how Rep. Allen would make this decision without any input from the committee members, who left the last committee hearing with the understanding that the committee would reconvene and consider whether to take any action on the complaints.”
In February, Arizona House Ethics Committee announced it had hired Ballard Spahr LLP to assist its probe into the Republican lawmaker from Globe who had been accused of conducting an inappropriate romantic relationship with Anna Marie Knorr, a former lobbyist for an agriculture trade group.
A separate accusation claimed Cook had bribed Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb with campaign contributions to prevent the tax debt seizure of Knorr Farms, a property owned by Knorr and her former husband in 2018.
The complaint about the alleged relationship with Knorr was filed Jan. 29 by Janell Alewyn, a constituent in Cook’s Legislative District 8.
The bribery accusation was made Feb. 4 by Kevin Cavanaugh, a retired police officer and former deputy chief for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
The complaints were released to the public record Feb. 5.
The committee released the findings of the investigation in June, which stated evidence demonstrated Cook and Knorr had a close, romantic relationship.
“Although Representative Cook and Ms. Knorr both deny a romantic relationship, the evidence demonstrates that they have a close personal relationship, and documents and witness statements are consistent with a close relationship of a romantic nature” the report stated.
While the investigation concluded that many facts were in dispute concerning the bribery accusations, the findings stated that Sheriff Lamb did call off the scheduled seizure after receiving a call from Cook — a phone call which neither party denied took place.
“… It is undisputed that Representative Cook called Sheriff Lamb days before the planned seizure, that Sheriff Lamb called off the scheduled seizure, and that no seizure has yet occurred,” the report stated.
Going forward, Cook said he will work with other representatives on reforms to ensure the ethics committee can’t use the investigative process for political purposes in the future.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.