Gilbertson admits no wrongdoing
SEATTLE -- University of Washington football coach Keith Gilbertson has agreed to pay $7,774 to settle a state Ethics Board complaint that he violated state law by accepting free flights his two children took on a UW booster's plane.
Gilbertson admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, announced Friday, but acknowledged that the board likely would have found that the flights violated a law barring state employees from accepting gifts worth more than $50.
The settlement includes a $2,500 civil penalty, plus $5,274, the assessed value of two seats Gilbertson's children had on a flight to an away game in 2003.
Michael Rosenberger, Gilbertson's lawyer, said the coach is "pretty happy" about the settlement "because now he can focus on coaching the UW football team, which is what he was hired to do."
The Ethics Board is pursuing similar complaints against Rick Neuheisel, the Huskies' former head coach who was fired last year for gambling in high-stakes NCAA basketball tournament pools, and Jerry Nevin, director of UW's football operations.
All the flights in question were on a twin-engine turbo jet partially owned by university booster Wayne Gittinger.
In its report, the board said Neuheisel's acceptance of three flights from Gittinger "creates a significant concern of favoritism," in part because Neuheisel was required to monitor boosters' compliance with NCAA regulations.
Bob Sulkin, Neuheisel's lawyer, argued the flights were permissible for two reasons: because Neuheisel's contract allowed them and because gifts from family and friends that aren't intended "to gain or maintain influence" are exempt.
"Rick and Wayne Gittinger are good friends. We're sorry that Wayne Gittinger was dragged into this," Sulkin said. "Rick's just not going to admit that he did something wrong when he didn't."
Sulkin will be able to make Neuheisel's case at a hearing before the board, which could be as many as six months away, according to Brian Malarky, the board's executive director. Nevin is expected to mount a similar defense based on his personal friendship with Gittinger, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported Saturday.
If the board finds that Neuheisel and Nevin violated state law, each could be fined thousands of dollars, depending on the number and value of the flights.
The board claims that Neuheisel, Nevin, Gittinger went to at least three Pacific-10 Conference head coaches' golf tournaments at Pebble Beach Golf Course in California, one outside Pittsburgh, and a UW-sponsored booster event in Palm Springs, Calif., called Dog Days in the Desert "on several occasions between March 2000 and March 2003."
Each of the trips was taken on the 10-seat jet, owned by a corporation whose partners are Gittinger and two members of the Nordstrom family. The board's report said neither the corporation nor the Nordstrom department store chain has any contract with the UW athletic department.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press