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Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Coach's wife, kids flew to Ohio State game

Associated Press

SEATTLE -- The state Executive Ethics Board is reviewing the use of a booster's jet to fly the wife and two children of Washington coach Keith Gilbertson to the season-opening game at Ohio State.

Jim Daves, an Athletic Department spokesman, and Michael D. Hunsinger, a lawyer for the coach, said Gilbertson did nothing wrong but has offered to reimburse the booster, Wayne Gittinger, a lawyer and who has advised the coach on legal matters.

"The Gittingers have been friends of ours for years and years and years," Gilbertson told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Brian Malarky, executive director of the ethics panel, told the P-I the board received an anonymous complaint, adding that he plans to present his findings to the board Jan. 12.

Reports on the complaint also were aired Monday night on KING Television and published Tuesday in The Seattle Times and the News Tribune of Tacoma.

The state ethics code bars state employees from accepting gifts exceeding $50 "if it could be reasonably expected that the gift, gratuity, or favor would influence the vote, action, or judgment of the officer or employee, or be considered as part of a reward for action or inaction."

Potential penalties include a reprimand and a fine of $5,000 or three times the value of the gift, whichever is greater.

"It is our feeling that that this is not a violation," Daves said.

"The law does not make it illegal for a longtime family friend, or business associate for that matter, to give something to a state employee, in this case a state employee's kids," Hunsinger said, "and it doesn't prohibit somebody from donating something without the intention of getting anything in return."

Gilbertson's contract provides $20,000 a year for "the expenses of (his) family relating to reasonable airline fare, lodging and other necessary and proper expenses related to university athletics."

He is reimbursed for each trip and gets to keep any unused money from his travel budget at the end of the year.

He told the P-I he accepted the offer from Gittinger because there wasn't room for his family on the Huskies' charter for the game Aug. 30 in Columbus.

The ethics probe is the latest in a series of investigations into questionable conduct in the Huskies' athletic program.

Gilbertson was hired in late July after Rick Neuheisel was fired by athletic director Barbara Hedges, who said he engaged in high-stakes gambling in violation of NCAA rules and was untruthful when he was first questioned about the matter.

Neuheisel is suing the university on a claim of breach of contract and the NCAA on claims of defamation, conspiracy and wrongful interference with his job.

On Monday, Hedges reiterated that Gilbertson will return for at least one more season despite Saturday's crushing loss to California and the team's overall struggles this season.

"He stepped into a very difficult situation at a very late date," Hedges told The Seattle Times. "Some things this season have not gone as expected, but he is an outstanding coach."

State and federal authorities also are conducting a joint criminal investigation of a former team doctor who admitted improperly handing out thousands of doses of prescription drugs to Washington athletes.