More tangles in the church-state scandal at Ecclesia College | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, May 18, 2017

More tangles in the church-state scandal at Ecclesia College

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 9:59 AM

ECCLESIA COLLEGE: More tangles in the GIF scandal.
  • ECCLESIA COLLEGE: More tangles in the GIF scandal.

The tangle
click to enlarge BOB  BALLINGER: His law firm is defending a college he helped get state tax money. Another attorney questions it.
  • BOB BALLINGER: His law firm is defending a college he helped get state tax money. Another attorney questions it.
d web of Ecclesia College, the Bible school favored by hundreds of thousands of dollars n taxpayer money, some now tied to federal bribery indictments, has grown still more tangled.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports today on developments in the lawsuit by gadfly Jim Parsons to gain access to records that would show how Ecclesia, a tiny college in Springdale, spent $700,000 in state money. Ecclesia had become a most favored recipient of state money through the surplus General Improvement Fund, with applications supported by a wide range of local legislators and even some as far afield as Sen. Linda Collins-Smith of Pocahontas. Why so much money for the tiny church school? In two cases, the answer might have been corruption. Former Rep. Micah Neal and former Sen. Jon Woods have been indicted by feds for taking kickbacks from money they guided to the college. Indictments that also named the college president, Oren Parris III, and a pal of Woods, Randell Shelton Jr. Neal has pleaded guilty.

Ecclesia is fighting the FOI lawsuit. Joey McCutchen, Parsons' attorney, has raised some new questions, according to the D-G:

* Travis Story, a Fayetteville lawyer defending the college, claims a protective order in the federal criminal case prohibits release of information. I think he's wrong. Documents in the case may be sealed, but not all documents held elsewhere otherwise deemed open under state law.

• McCutchen notes Ecclesia claims to be a church (this provides a substantial tax benefit). If so, the Arkansas Constitution clearly prohibits payment of state funds to it. That would make its application for state money fraudulent, McCutchen argues.

* Travis Story is a law partner of Rep. Bob Ballinger, one of several representatives who went to bat for state money for Ecclesia. The latest case filing says Ballinger may be called as a witness in the case and thus the Story firm should be disqualified from representing Ecclesia.

This is a smelly pile, crime or no crime. Why so much money to a tiny Bible college and not for state-supported institutions of higher education? Most of the push came from family values Republican legislators fond of talking about their careful management of state dollars.

JOURNALISM NOTE: I hope the Little Rock edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette picks up more of the Northwest edition's reporting on this story. It is NOT a local issue, but an important (and unflattering) accounting of how the state legislature operates. I am glad the NWA D-G finally plunged into Ecclesia, a beneficiary whose riches we've questioned for a long while. Indeed, others, too. Warren Throckmorton, the Pathos blogger, made the church connection months ago.

Tags: , , , , , ,


Favorite

Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Ethics Commission to review illegal contribution to Leslie Rutledge

    Blue Hog Report says that the Ethics Commission has confirmed it will investigate what appears to be a clear ethics law violation he found in Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's campaign records — a May 21 contribution of $2,700 from the Republican Attorneys General Association eight days before the PAC was registered in the state.
    • Oct 23, 2018
  • Jared Henderson calls on Hutchinson administration to stop 'demeaning' teachers

    Jared Henderson, the Democratic candidate for governor, has blasted the move by Education Commissioner Johnny Key to weaken job protection for certain Little Rock School District teachers. He says it's of a piece with Gov. Asa Hutchinson's "empty rhetoric" about education.
    • Oct 23, 2018
  • Tuesday: News roundup and open line

    Here's the open line. Also today's news and comment.
    • Oct 23, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Free Zinn book for Arkansas teachers

    Arkansas teachers! Get your free Howard Zinn book here! Whether Kim Hendren likes it or not.
    • Mar 3, 2017
  • Payday lenders on the march at legislature

    Payday lenders are working hard to get legislative cover for the reintroduction of their usurious loan business to Arkansas. Some are fighting back.
    • Mar 10, 2017
  • Hospitality, restaurant groups oppose bathroom bill

    Add the restaurant and hospitality association to those opposed to Sen. Linda Collins-Smith's bill to keep transgender people out of public restrooms that match their gender identity.
    • Mar 16, 2017

Slideshows

  • Arkansas vs Ole Miss at War Memorial stadium in Little Rock, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. After leading for much of the game, Arkansas lost 37-33 when Ole Miss scored the game winning Touchdown with less that 2 minutes left. 
  • Margaret Clark Adventure Park
    New sculptures, preschoolers play area dedicated in Riverfront Park in Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation