Atlantic County Republican Chairman Keith Davis called Wednesday for Alisa Cooper, a Democratic candidate for Assembly, to disclose details of her work on the state Council on the Arts.

Last week, the council's director resigned following allegations that the group had violated ethics rules by spending $300,000 in no-bid contracts between 2006 and 2010. Members of the council are also alleged to have received free tickets to theater or arts events.

On Wednesday, Davis called on Cooper, an Atlantic County freeholder running for a 2nd District Assembly seat, to provide full details and supporting documentation of her presence and involvement in council meetings during her three years as a member.

He called for her to release records showing her attendance at meetings, to address whether she knew council members received free tickets to concerts and the theater, and explain whether she knew about no-bid contracts approved by the council.

"She either knew of these ethics violations and looked the other way or was completely asleep at the switch as a member of the council," Davis said. "Whatever way you slice it, she has some explaining to do."

Cooper said Wednesday evening she would release any attendance records, which she said would show she attended meetings except when they clashed with her day job as a school teacher.

"I have always attended the big annual meetings," she said. In general, she said, "My attendance has been good, but perhaps not excellent."

She said she never took free tickets to any concert or event, and said the no-bid contracts had begun before she joined the council in 2008.

Asked whether she recalled recent decisions on some of those contracts, she said she did not and could not immediately check those instances. "I don't have that information here," she said.

She also said records would show she had never claimed any reimbursement for any work associated with the council.

Davis' demand came as Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno has called for more oversight of the independent agency by the State Department.

Guadagno also forwarded the cases to the state Attorney General's Office and the State Ethics Commission. Neither office has said if it will take any action.

Guadagno said last week that the council, and not the her office, could take action on those involved.

"They could take a whole range of actions that could go from firing to ignoring what happened with those tax dollars, I suppose," she said during testimony before the Assembly Budget Committee.

The Council on the Arts disputes her assertion of her department's existing lack of control.

Vice Chairwoman Judith Leone said in a statement last week that the State Department's Division of Administration has "oversight over all council financial transactions."

Cooper said Wednesday she agreed with that.

"If Keith Davis or any of the Republicans want answers on the Arts Council, they should bring those questions to the lieutenant governor," she said.

"My love of the arts, and my work for the council, should not become a campaign issue," Cooper said.

However, Davis said, "The fact that Cooper has put herself out as a candidate to represent the 2nd District on important matters ... means this information is needed now."

Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, said he supported Cooper's willingness to release attendance records of her time on the council.

"In cases like these, it's better to have all information made available," he said.

Contact Juliet Fletcher:


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