Maricopa resident AnnaMarie Knorr feels exonerated after the Arizona House of Representatives Ethics Committee dropped its investigation into her friend Rep. David Cook.
Though the investigation, which begin in February, was into Cook’s behavior as a House member, Knorr was equally under the microscope in a very public way. The investigation cost her job and caused more private stress.
“I feel like it was a total dumpster fire,” said Knorr, who was dragged through the gauntlet of accusations against Cook. “They had an agenda and they had no interest in the actual evidence and the actual truth.”
The accusations against Cook included having an extramarital affair with Knorr, a former lobbyist, which a complainant alleged compromised his actions as an elected official, and misusing his office to exert pressure on the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office to benefit the Knorr family.
Knorr was mentioned frequently in the original complaints and the detailed investigators’ report. She was interviewed by investigators but not brought in to testify before the committee. When the case was dropped by Chairman John Allen, she was not officially told and had to learn of it from the news media.
“I felt like the entire process was created to do damage to my reputation and to Rep. Cook’s reputation,” Knorr said. “Even until the very end, they refused to allow him to present witnesses or cross-examine their witnesses. A total lack of due process… There was nothing in this process that was fair and unbiased.”
Knorr said she was completely unheard by the committee. When it became apparent she would not get the chance to speak for herself, she sent a “declaration” to all representatives explaining her side of the story. In doing so, she had to reveal very private personal and family information. In it, she called the allegations of an affair “a disgusting lie” perpetrated by her father and her estranged husband.
During the months of investigation by the Ethics Committee, Knorr was deep into heavy educational issues as president of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board. The district was working through all the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as normal, critical board decisions.
“It’s unfortunate that this was such a public political process and that my service to the board was associated with it,” Knorr said. “It had nothing to do with my role as president of MUSD. I haven’t and I won’t let any of this make me shy away from my commitments or make me do any less of a job for the students and the staff and the parents. I’m 100% committed to my role there.”
Monday, she filed her paperwork to seek re-election to the board. Two days later, Allen announced he was dropping the case against Cook, but not because he felt Cook was innocent.
“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 wrote in a nine-page letter to the Ethics Committee.
That letter, like the original complaints and the investigators’ report, reiterated the accusations against Cook and, by implication, Knorr, again making the details part of public record. He even called their denial of an affair “incredible,” continuing to cast a shadow.
“I would hope that the public can see through that and [see] the fact that the complaints were dismissed exonerates me and Rep. Cook and all the others who were dragged into this,” Knorr said.
As chairman, Allen took particular offense at Cook’s behavior during the investigation, accusing him of several lies in his response to the committee. Cook also refused to respond to a subpoena, and Allen pointed to “threatening behavior” on his part. But he still called all evidence of unruly behavior “equivocal.”
Not being a member of the House, Knorr became a side note to the representatives.
“My reputation has been compromised,” she said. “Being vindicated at the end of the process is great, but the damage is done.”
Knorr is now considering options for her future, focusing on her children and rebuilding her life.
“I’m blessed with some amazing friends. And I love the state I live in; I love the City of Maricopa,” she said. “I don’t think that God saw me through all of this for it not to work out well in the end. So, I don’t know what’s next but I’m excited to find out.”