The chairman of the Arizona House of Representatives Ethics Committee on Tuesday announced that two ethics complaints have been filed against Rep. David Cook, a Republican from Globe who has been the subject of news reports showing romantic letters he allegedly sent to a lobbyist from the agricultural industry.
The chairman, Rep. T.J. Shope, also said that he was recusing himself from considering or acting on the complaints, since he and Cook are seatmates in the same legislative district.
“I believe it is appropriate that I temporarily recuse myself from all Committee business until this matter is resolved,” Shope, a Coolidge Republican, said.
News of Cook’s relationship with AnnaMarie Knorr, a lobbyist for the Western Growers Association, sparked concerns of conflict of interest because the lawmaker had proposed and voted on legislation supported by the agricultural organization.
— AZ House Republicans (@AZHouseGOP) February 5, 2020
Cook is the third lawmaker to be the subject of an ethics complaint in the past three years. In 2018, Don Shooter was expelled from the House of Representatives after an investigation found he engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment. In 2019, Rep. David Stringer resigned after refusing to comply with an ethics investigation. Stringer faced two ethics complaints, one related to sex crimes from 1983 involving children and another one on racist remarks he made in public.
In a separate press release, House Speaker Rusty Bowers announced he had appointed Rep. John Allen, who currently sits on the Ethics Committee, as chair of the panel because of Shope’s recusal.
Bowers also appointed Regina Cobb, a Kingman Republican, to the five-member committee, to ensure Republicans continue to hold a 3-2 majority.
It is not clear what the complaints against Cook allege. Bowers said in his statement that the complaints will be made public once Allen, Cook, and Ethics Committee members review them.
A spokesman for the House Republicans didn’t immediately respond to requests for information on who filed the complaints and when they were submitted to the committee.
In the wake of Shooter’s expulsion from the House in 2018, the House ordered the Ethics Committee to establish a code of conduct and rules on conflict of interest. The panel has neither proposed nor adopted those rules.
Last month, Bowers’s office appeared ready to change House rules to eliminate the requirement that the committee create a code of conduct. Days later, Cook’s letters to Knorr were the subject of media reports.