State to seek repayment from Ecclesia College. At last. | Arkansas Blog

Friday, September 14, 2018

State to seek repayment from Ecclesia College. At last.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2018 at 7:37 AM

screen_shot_2018-09-14_at_7.37.14_am.png
Doug Thompson reported in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today that the state Finance and Administration Department has asked Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to sue to recover at least $600,000 of the $700,000 in tax money sent to the private Ecclesia College in a scheme orchestrated by legislators who took kickbacks from the money. It's about time.

State officials seem to suggest that the issue wasn't ripe until conclusion of sentencing of former Sen. Jon Woods and former Rep. Micah Neal, who got kickbacks; their bagman Randell Shelton, and the former head of the Christian college, Oren Paris III.

I have my doubts. The participation of 10 Northwest Arkansas legislators in enriching a tiny, undistinguished college organized as a church has become a campaign issue. Rightly so. One of them, Rep. Bob Ballinger, made a profit off the land speculation state tax money enabled Ecclesia to engage in. His law partner, Travis Story, represents Ecclesia today and claims the statute of limitations has tolled on getting money back from the college.

This was a cause beloved by Bible-waving NWA Repubs and only one of many uncovered in a federal public corruption probe that has also ensnared the governor's nephew, former Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson.  The governor's nephew, Sen. Jim Hendren, has also said, yes, Woods suggested bribing him in 2012 to avoid an election contest, but he managed to stay silent on that until 2018, after Woods had been indicted. Hendren also declined to help the FBI snare Woods on that bribe offer. The governor threw a fund-raiser for Woods not long before the U.S. marshal came calling with an arrest warrant for Woods.

So now the governor's finance agency and Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (she of a security detail worthy of an emperor) are going to act like they care about a deal that has festered in the open for years.

I'll take you back to 2014, when an audit instigated by Republican Rep. Karen Hopper, laid bare the stench surrounding General Improvement Fund spending in Northwest Arkansas generally and at Ecclesia specifically. Hopper, a retired college administrator, had questions about sending state tax money to a private college, a religious one at that. The audit seems likely to have led to the federal investigation. It was no secret. It was trumpeted repeatedly in the pages of the Arkansas Times. As I wrote in a column for this week's Times about the general corruption of the Arkansas legislator, I've yet to see a legislator apologize for his or her role in shipping money to Ecclesia or other dubious projects (save remorseful federal convicts seeking lighter sentences) or make a peep about getting it back.

The action disclosed today looks like rear-covering to me. But better late than never.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Favorite

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • One dead, two wounded in early morning shooting

    KARK's Susanne Brunner reports that one person has been killed and two wounded in a shooting shortly after 1 a.m. this morning near Roosevelt Road and Cross Street.
    • Apr 17, 2019
  • Reality bites at Little Rock City Hall; spending must be cut

    A followup to Rebekah Hall's earlier report on Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.'s announcement that cuts will be necessary in the city budget in part to pay for "priorities," such as his desire to expand the police force, but also to deal with the reality often mentioned here of stagnant to decling city sales tax revenue. Some quick ideas on that:
    • Apr 17, 2019
  • Speaking of hard times in newspapers: Democrat-Gazette's move to digital

    Word continues to filter in of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's pullback from statewide circulation of a print daily edition of the newspaper — the latest from the Hot Springs area, just 50 or so miles down the road from Little Rock. Subscribers there were told home delivery of a print paper would end in May.
    • Apr 16, 2019
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Open line

    • Since some asked about it, the church operates a food pantry where people can come…

    • on April 21, 2019
  • Re: Open line

    • So, I'm wondering.... since there have been no blog posts so far today, maybe we'll…

    • on April 21, 2019
  • Re: Open line

    • Eye for eye, tooth for tooth. "Mary Elizabeth Moore, 34, was charged with child neglect…

    • on April 21, 2019
 

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation