Cook to go before ethics board

Although state school board opponents Dave Cook and Michelle Trusty-Murphy disagree on almost every point, they do agree on one thing - they are ready for Friday's ethics commission meeting to be over.

"I would like to see an end to this whole thing and we can get on to the real issues of the campaign," Trusty-Murphy said.

The meeting will be 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Reno Transit Authority building in Reno to determine if Cook committed an ethics violation in his disclosure when he voted to adopt health standards.

Cook said he expects the board to understand his situation.

"I do not believe they will find me willfully violating the ethics," he said "My expectation is that they will say technically I should have disclosed earlier and from now on I will."

Trusty-Murphy filed a complaint with the ethics commission last month regarding Cook's vote.

The ethics panel told Cook in February of last year not to vote on health-related issues because he is engaged to Robinette Bacon, the HIV/AIDS Comprehensive School Health coordinator for the State Department of Education.

However, Deputy Attorney General Melanie Meehan-Crossley wrote in a Nov. 29, 1999, letter to the state board that members must approve the standards set forth by the Standards Council appointed by the Legislature or resign.

Cook said he was caught in a Catch-22 , but to remedy that situation, he issued a disclosure.

After approving the motion to adopt the standards, Cook said, "Because I am under an ethics ruling and under other circumstances I would have abstained since Robinette Bacon was a facilitator for the health team.

"However, I think the overriding consideration is that the Legislature mandated that we vote to accept these standards. I don't want to send the wrong message, but I do want to make a public record note that I am mindful of my ethics obligation.

"I think the overriding consideration was their mandate to approve."

Although the ethics committee agreed that Cook had no choice but to vote,

it determined sufficient grounds to investigate because of the timing of the disclosure.

The committee issued a statement saying the disclosure should have come before the vote and that he should have been more clear about his relationship with Bacon.

"The irony is that the ethics committee is not concerned with Shelly's original complaint," he said. "She thought I shouldn't have voted, but the committee understands that I had no choice. They are just concerned when I voted."

Cook said he was unsure of the proper protocol of issuing a disclosure and hopes this hearing will serve as a means to educate others.

"Other state boards and other local boards must look more closely at how they do things," he said. "Before this, I didn't know that there was a certain way you had to do it."

If you go

What: Nevada Ethics Commission

Where: Reno Transit Authority building

When: 10:30 a.m. Friday


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