A complaint that sparked an ethics probe into Rep. David Cook alleges he orchestrated a bribery scheme involving Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb to benefit a lobbyist he with whom he allegedly had a romantic relationship.
And that relationship is the subject of a second ethics complaint against the Globe Republican.
House Ethics Chair Committee Rep. John Allen released the two ethics complaints Wednesday afternoon. The five-member panel is waiting for Cook to respond to the complaints.
The explosive complaint from Kevin Cavanaugh, a former law enforcement officer who briefly served in the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and ran for Congress in 2018, alleges that Cook arranged for campaign contributions to Lamb in exchange for the sheriff canceling the seizure of a farm owned by AnnaMarie Knorr and her husband.
Knorr is a lobbyist for the Western Growers Association, an agricultural trade group. Last month, Cook was accused of having a romantic relationship with Knorr after dozens of pages of handwritten notes he penned were leaked to the media.
Cavanaugh’s complaint alleges that Cook asked Lamb to stop the September 2018 seizure over $140,000 in unpaid property taxes. He says that Cook told him Lamb would not seize the property in exchange for a campaign contribution.
“In the case of David Cook, I believe that the Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives could jeopardize their thin majority if the media announces these issues prior to the conclusion of any potential criminal investigation and rightfully give the opposition a platform on which to win a seat,” Cavanaugh wrote.
Lamb told The Associated Press he halted the seizure when he learned of it from Cook, but he never discussed a campaign contribution. He said he wasn’t aware of the pending seizure and wanted to first come up with protocols for property seizures before proceeding.
“As a sheriff and sheriff’s office, we are always looking for ways to protect our citizens, their property and their businesses from government overreach,” Lamb said in a statement. “This includes giving businesses every opportunity to resolve tax issues prior to seizing the business and assets, which should always be a last resort.”
A second complaint centers on Cook’s relationship with Knorr, and is based on reporting by news outlets, including The Arizona Republic, Arizona Capitol Times and AZ Family. It was filed by Janell Alewyn, who said she lives in Cook’s district and described herself as a “concerned constituent.”
Those news reports detail love letters Cook allegedly sent to Knorr, a lobbyist for the Western Growers Association. The group has since put Knorr on leave to investigate the allegations. Cook weighed on legislation favored by Knorr’s employer, raising questions of conflict of interest.
“Representative Cook’s mail demonstrates numerous times his willingness to engage in a long-term intimate relationship with Ms. Knorr all while carrying and supporting legislation she is attempting to advance,” Alewyn wrote. “The relationship as made clear though his own statements is inappropriate, unethical, a conflict of interest and presents the opportunity for serious corruption at our capital.”
Cook’s represents a legislative district that covers Coolidge, Eloy, Casa Grande and Globe.