Arizona lobbyist targeted in Fiesta Bowl corruption case gets community service, probation

PHOENIX – An Arizona lobbyist targeted in a Fiesta Bowl corruption probe was sentenced Monday to 200 hours of community service and one year of unsupervised probation in a separate case.

Gary Husk, 56, was a leading figure in the Fiesta Bowl case but avoided any charges related to that probe after a lengthy investigation. His firm represented the bowl from March 2000 to January 2011.

In a deal with prosecutors, Husk pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanour charge of conspiracy to make a prohibited contribution while running an illegal campaign finance scheme. In exchange, authorities sought no jail time and dismissed other more serious counts related to the Fiesta Bowl case.

Husk has already paid $30,000 in restitution to cover costs of the criminal investigation, plus about $1,800 in fines.

Prosecutors had sought 1,560 hours of community service, citing his lack of remorse and his direct relation to advising Fiesta Bowl employees who face much more serious charges.

“With all due respect your honour, I have lived under the spectre of the Fiesta Bowl scandal over the last four years,” Husk told the judge. “This has nothing to do with the Fiesta Bowl.”

Judge Margaret Mahoney agreed, noting “the Fiesta Bowl is irrelevant” in this case, but she scolded Husk, an attorney, for breaking the law.

“It may be a misdemeanour, but this is not a minor event,” Mahoney told Husk. “You should have known better.”

Husk and his firm, Husk Partners, were charged with using the company’s money to reimburse staff members who made contributions to high-profile politicians, including Gov. Jan Brewer.

Arizona Assistant Attorney General Matt Conti disputed Husk’s contention that he was blameless in the Fiesta Bowl scandal.

“Nothing could be further from the truth, your honour,” Conti told the judge, adding that charges weren’t pursued in that case under the terms of Husk’s plea agreement.

Outside court, Husk said he feels vindicated and that he wasn’t responsible for the scandal that brought down the Fiesta Bowl’s former CEO, John Junker, who was fired in March 2011 for leading a conspiracy in which bowl employees were reimbursed at least $46,000 for political-campaign contributions.

Junker has pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge and a state charge of soliciting a fraudulent scheme and faces up to 2 1/2 years in prison combined. He is set for sentencing at a later date and has declined to comment.

Several other Fiesta Bowl employees also have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the bowl investigations. The scandal nearly jeopardized the bowl’s role as a host of college football’s national championship game and its NCAA license.

Federal and state authorities had raided Husk’s office as part of their criminal investigation involving the post-season college game in January 2012.

The Arizona Republic first revealed the campaign contribution reimbursements in December 2009.