By Raquel Hendrickson
Arizona’s House Ethics Committee has retained outside counsel to investigate complaints against Rep. David Cook (R-District 8), who has been accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a lobbyist.
That lobbyist from Western Growers Association is AnnaMarie Knorr, president of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board. Both Cook and Knorr have publicly denied a romantic or unethical relationship. The official complaints have also pulled Sheriff Mark Lamb into the fray. All involved are Republicans.
T.J. Shope, also a District 8 representative, earlier recused himself from the Ethics Committee.
The source of the complaint filed by Janell Alewyn of Coolidge were private letters allegedly from Cook to Knorr that suggested an intimate relationship. The letters were first given to Yellow Sheet Report, part of Arizona News Service, and could not be independently verified.
The complaint against Cook suggests the lawmaker was unduly influenced by his relationship with Knorr to support agricultural interests that benefited her employer. Knorr was placed on leave by WGA when the allegations arose.
“The public disclosure of this sordid correspondence underscores the unacceptable intermingling of apparent private, personal relationship with legislative business,” Alewyn wrote to the Ethics Committee.
Both Cook and Knorr have spouses and families. In her complaint, Alewyn called their relationship “disturbing,” “compromising” and “a clear conflict of interest.” She also stated Cook was vindictive toward Knorr’s father, Bas Aja, based on Aja’s claim in state media his agricultural organization was blocked from an ad hoc committee as retribution for allegedly interfering in the relationship.
The Ethics Committee retained Ballard Spahr LLP, led by attorney Mark Kokanovich, to investigate those allegations as well as another complaint from Kevin Cavanaugh, a former candidate for U.S. Congress, that alleges Cook promised campaign donations to Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb if he halted the seizure of Knorr property over a tax debt of $140,000, which occurred in 2018.
In an echo of emails sent anonymously to media last year, Cavanaugh claimed he has observed unspecified “criminal behaviors” by Lamb since before he was elected in 2016, though he said he worked hard to get Lamb elected. Alleging bribery via quid pro quo, Cavanaugh included political conspiracies and a Bible reference in his complaint, which mentions Lamb more than Cook.
The sheriff has denied wrongdoing.
According to campaign finance reports, Bas Aja gave Lamb’s campaign $250, and Knorr contributed $200. Knorr also gave $200 to Cook’s campaign, and Phyllis Aja gave $500.
Anyone who has information relevant to this investigation should contact the House Rules Attorney Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-926-4615.