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The Little Rock School Board will look into a $350,000 school district contract with a database consultant they learned about during court testimony in January’s final hearings in the desegregation case. Board President Katherine Mitchell said Superintendent Roy Brooks apparently entered into the contract without the board’s approval. Mitchell said the consultant, who was involved in constructing the district’s “data warehouse” of student information, testified that he was paid a salary of $30,000 per month, plus expenses of between $1,500 and $2,000 for each visit he made to Little Rock. “We’re trying to validate that [information] because that never did come before the board,” Mitchell said.

News of this contract has also sparked a wider interest in reviewing others, Mitchell said. “Since this one was revealed we just want to know about all the contracts, just to make sure we’re following policy so we’re not in jeopardy of being sued or anything,” she said.

Brooks said Tuesday that he wasn't aware board members were interested in looking into the contract, and hadn't gotten any requests for information about it through his office. He referred questions about the details of the contract itself to the district's chief financial officer, Mark Milhollen. Milhollen could not be reached before our press time.

Crude

In case you missed it, the abominable right-wing harpie Ann Coulter stirred up another small tempest last weekend when she called Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards a “faggot” during a meeting of conservative political groups in Washington. She spoke amid a procession of speeches by Republican presidential candidates, who promptly denounced Coulter’s hateful words. National press accounts failed to solicit a comment from Mike Huckabee, the former governor and presidential explorer, who was on the same program. So we asked.

His comment on Coulter’s remarks: “Her comments failed to show the civility that is needed for our political environment and were crude and unnecessary.”

Good investment

Arkansas Financial Services, one of the payday lending companies fighting Rep. David Johnsons bill to assess penalties against the companies for usurious loans, didn’t waste much effort fighting the bill in the House, where it passed easily.

Instead, it focused on the smaller Senate and particularly the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee, which failed to give the bill a favorable recommendation Tuesday. Needing five votes to get out of committee, the bill got one vote, from Sen. Jim Argue.

Coincidentally, five members of the committee received $500 each in the fall from Arkansas Financial Services for 2006 campaigns — Sens. Bob Johnson, Paul Bookout, Paul Miller, Barbara Horn and Terry Smith. The three other members of the committee — Argue and Sens. Percy Malone and Jack Critcher — weren’t on the ballot in 2006.

After the committee beat the bill, the payday lenders surfaced with a bill putatively designed to tighten up payday lending to help consumers. Johnson, the House sponsor, wasn’t buying. But Sen. Shawn Womack of Mountain Home, previously a supporter of the payday lending crackdown, had nice things to say about the bill. Wonder why? Maybe it’s because he’d worked out a bill to amend the appropriation for the state agency that regulates payday lenders to direct $200,000 of the agency’s spare cash to the ASU-Mountain Home nursing program. Now THAT is effective lending.

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