APNewsBreak: Ethics panel probes Fiesta Bowl

May 12, 2011 - 3:58 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona Senate Ethics Committee review found some lawmakers may have violated state law by improperly accepting free football game tickets from the Fiesta Bowl, Chairman Ron Gould said Thursday.

However, Gould told The Associated Press that he is temporarily refraining from taking further action because he doesn't want to taint a criminal investigation being conducted by Maricopa County prosecutors.

Gould launched his committee's staff review of lawmaker's financial disclosure reports and other documents after the Fiesta Bowl released an internal report in March.

The report detailed a wide array of improper spending by bowl officials, questionable gifts to curry favor from public officials and illegal reimbursement of some bowl personnel for campaign contributions to politicians.

Gould said he discussed his committee's review with County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who expressed concern that possible criminal cases could be jeopardized if senators are compelled to testify in an ethics proceeding.

"The flip side is they probably wouldn't testify anyway unless I give them immunity and I don't want to do that," said Gould, a Lake Havasu City Republican.

Montgomery spokesman Jerry Cobb declined to comment, citing the open investigation.

Arizona legislators can accept free travel but must report it. They generally cannot accept tickets to sports and entertainment events unless the entire Legislature, an entire chamber or an entire committee is invited.

Gould declined to specify how many lawmakers have been implicated in possible illegal acceptance of game tickets but said that the number is "not a whole bunch."

Gould said next step — which is on hold — would be to send letters seeking explanations from the current or former senators involved.

Gould said possible Senate Ethics Committee proceedings now center on acceptance of free tickets because it appears that nearly all the lawmakers who accepted free trips from the Fiesta Bowl have now amended their financial disclosure reports to include the trips.

He also said he is unaware of any evidence that recipients of the campaign contributions were aware of illegal reimbursements to the contributors.