Arizona lawmaker denies relationship with suspended lobbyist

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona agriculture lobbyist was put on leave from her job after a newspaper raised questions about a possible romantic relationship with a lawmaker, The Arizona Republic reported Wednesday.

Republican Rep. David Cook of Globe and Western Growers lobbyist AnnaMarie Knorr told the newspaper in separate interviews that they are friends and their relationship did not cross ethical lines.

The newspaper reports it received a batch of handwritten letters that portray a close relationship between the lawmaker and the lobbyist. The Republic reported that the letters were mailed anonymously.

Western Growers, a California-based agricultural trade association, told the newspaper that the group is aware of allegations of professional misconduct and is investigating.

Knorr said she's being targeted by her father and her husband, from whom she's seeking a divorce. She said she had not seen the letters sent to The Republic, but said Cook and his wife wrote her letters of encouragement while she was undergoing treatment for a medical condition.

“All I can tell you is Mr. Cook and I have never had an inappropriate relationship,” Knorr said. “All his family has done is supported me through one of the toughest periods of my life. They’re trying to make this into something else.”

She said her father has sided with her husband and her family is “disowning me and trying to ruin me,” over her decision to end her marriage.

Cook, 51, did not dispute that he had written the letters when asked about them during an interview with The Republic. But he refused to discuss the documents.

"We are friends for years," he said of Knorr.

Cook, who is married, is a member of two committees that hear bills affecting the agriculture industry that Knorr represents — the Land and Agriculture Committee and the Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee. He has sponsored bills that Knorr and Western Growers support.

Republican leaders in the House are discussing changing the chamber's rules , such as by specifying that only members of the chamber could file complaints against representatives.

House Majority Leader Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, told The Republic that the changes are not related to Cook. But he described the allegations involving Cook as troubling, if true.