PHOENIX — The Fiesta Bowl’s former top executive pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge stemming from a political donations scandal that nearly jeopardized the bowl’s role as a regular host of college football’s national championship game.
John Junker entered the plea in Phoenix for his role in soliciting political contributions from Fiesta Bowl employees, a development that will likely help federal and state investigations into the scheme.
A 276-page bowl investigation report found the “apparent scheme” to reimburse at least $46,539 for employees’ political contributions. It also reported lavish spending by Junker.
The bowl organization later reimbursed employees for the donations, which were made over a nine-year period.
The scandal led to the firing last year of Junker, the bowl’s longtime leader, and the resignation of Natalie Wisneski, the bowl’s chief operating officer. Wisneski was indicted in November on federal charges in the scandal. She has pleaded not guilty.
The Fiesta Bowl organization was spared the worst sanctions — the loss of the championship game, which it hosts every four years, and its NCAA license.
Two other bowl officials, Peggy Eyanson and Jay Fields, entered pleas Tuesday to misdemeanors.
As part of their deal with Arizona prosecutors, Junker, Eyanson and Fields will not face any further criminal charges or civil lawsuits from the state. They must also cooperate with the state’s continued investigation into the scandal.
Attorney General Tom Horne said he couldn’t name any other target of the investigation.