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State board probing UW official

5/16/2004 - Washington Huskies

SEATTLE -- A state board will investigate the University of
Washington's director of football operations after finding he
violated ethics laws by taking free flights on a booster's private
jet to golf outings and away games.

The state's executive ethics board decided Friday to investigate
Jerry Nevin for possibly violating a law prohibiting state
employees from taking influential gifts, The News Tribune of Tacoma
reported Saturday.

The flights were made on a twin-engine turbo jet owned partially
by Wayne Gittinger, a member of several boards and advisory groups
with the UW athletic department.

Gittinger has helped select candidates for key posts, including
athletic director and football coach, the newspaper said.

Nevin is responsible for monitoring and reporting UW boosters'
compliance with NCAA regulations. The board alleges that accepting
flights from Gittinger compromised his ability to remain impartial.

If found in violation of the rules, Nevin could face fines of
$35,000 or more, depending on the number and value of the flights.

Nevin's lawyer, Mike Hunsinger, said "Jerry refuses to
acknowledge this as a violation." He said he plans to challenge
the board's ruling.

Gittinger did not immediately return phone calls Sunday from The
Associated Press. The News Tribune said he was unavailable for
comment Friday.

The board also is investigating trips taken by UW football coach
Keith Gilbertson and former coach Rick Neuheisel, said Brian
Malarky, the panel's executive director.

Hunsinger contends Nevin and Gittinger are longtime friends. He
said the flights fall under an exemption to the law that allows
gifts if it's "clear beyond a reasonable doubt'' that they are not
made "as part of any design to gain or maintain influence."

"Wayne Gittinger was not giving these things with the intent to
influence the University of Washington," Hunsinger told the paper.

However, the board said the exemption didn't apply because the
pair's friendship "began as an official rather than personal
relationship" after Nevin was hired by the UW.

Nevin came to Washington in January 1999 from the University of
Colorado where he worked with Neuheisel, who also was hired at that
time.

Gittinger befriended the two men soon after they arrived. The
board's report said, "Over the next several months, the Nevins,
Gittingers and Neuheisels developed personal friendships," which
included taking vacations together and staying overnight at each
other's homes.

The report said the three families used the 10-seat jet to
attend at least three Pacific-10 Conference head coaches' golf
tournaments at Pebble Beach Golf Course in California. The men also
went to one outside Pittsburgh.

The Gittingers and Nevins "on several occasions between March
2000 and March 2003" attended a UW-sponsored booster event in Palm
Springs, Calif., called Dog Days in the Desert, the report stated.

The board also is investigating a flight by Gilbertson's wife
and two children, who returned on the plane from Columbus, Ohio,
after the Huskies' August 2003 game with Ohio State, said
Hunsinger, who also represents Gilbertson.

The board's investigation is the latest in a series of troubles
plaguing the university's athletic department.

In July the UW fired Neuheisel for gambling on NCAA basketball
and lying to investigators about it.

Athletic director Barbara Hedges retired early in January,
citing the Neuheisel case and an investigation into the dispensing
of powerful painkillers and other medications to UW softball
players by former team doctor William Scheyer.

Last month, an internal report found athletic officials knew or
should have known about problems with prescriptions for the
softball players.