Board member questions ethics of Idaho Aquarium

Credit: KTVB

Aquarium board member Josh Cook questions the ethics of what has happened with the Idaho Aquarium Board of Directors

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by Stephanie Zepelin

Bio | Email | Follow: @ktvbstephanie

KTVB.COM

Posted on September 21, 2013 at 10:28 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 23 at 9:42 AM

BOISE -- More controversy is enveloping the embattled Idaho Aquarium, and it's being detailed by a board member who says he's concerned about the facility's ethics.

In February, two of the Idaho Aquarium's directors were accused of buying illegally-obtained wildlife and shipping it to Idaho. Then came accusations of gross mismanagement against the board and the new director, Amanda Davison.

Board member Josh Cook says former aquarium director Chris Conk convinced him to join the board several months ago. Cook said he came on, hoping to clean it up and turn things around.

Cook was a friend and one-time business associate of former Idaho Aquarium Executive Director Chris Conk.

"He (Conk) is very knowledgeable in the saltwater industry," said Cook. "He's the one that got me into it. I've always considered him as my mentor. If I've ever had questions, he's the first person I call. But as an ethical business owner, or any type of person with ethics, that's different."

Cook questions the ethics of what has happened with the Idaho Aquarium Board of Directors.

"Part of the plea agreement that the board agreed to is that Chris (Conk) and Ammon (Covino) were to no longer have any association with the aquarium, whether it was on the board or as executive directors of the aquarium," said Cook.

Cook also told KTVB about a recent phone call with Conk that went counter to the agreement.

"He's (Conk) like, 'I'd like you to back me on my direction on where we're going,'" said Cook.

Conk was going to recommend Amanda Davison be the new executive director when he stepped down. He wanted Cook to vote that way, too. However, Cook said Conk and Davison were friends well before this all happened.

"He (Conk) said, 'I need her there. If she takes over, she'll be able to support me, she'll be able to help me along until I find something different where I can get on my own feet,'" Cook said Conk told him. "'I'll be able to run the aquarium through her and nobody's gonna know.''

As the secretary for the aquarium, Cook said Amanda Davison made $32,600 a year. As director, Cook said Conk made $96,000 a year.

Cook said Amanda Davison is not equipped to be the executive director of the aquarium.

"She doesn't have the knowledge, she doesn't have the way to approach things as business owner," he said.

Cook said he wanted to check on the state of things at the aquarium and look at some of the financial documents himself, before an audit.

"Part of this plea agreement that's going into effect next week is that we're supposed to have an internal audit conducted on us," Cook said. "Well, I'm scared beyond belief of what someone's going to come in and find."

However, the new executive director, Amanda Davison, won't let him see any documents (except those publicly available) without signing a confidentiality agreement.

"As a non-profit organization that's supposed to be transparent to the public, we should open the doors. If anybody wants to see our finances, come on in. If anybody wants this tax information, here you go," said Cook. "If you have nothing to hide, why are you having board members, of all people, sign confidentiality forms?"

The next board meeting is set for October. Cooks said he think the board will try to vote him off.

KTVB wanted to check this information with Executive Director Amanda Davison. KTVB called Davison Saturday afternoon. She did not answer our call, or call back.

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