Arkansas May Sue College For Kickback-Tainted Grants

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ attorney general is considering a request to sue a private Christian college to reclaim at least $600,000 of kickback-tainted grants the college received from state funds.

The Department of Finance and Administration wrote a letter to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office Sept. 7 regarding a kickback case involving Ecclesia College, the AP reports.

“It appears that a significant portion, if not all, of these funds were procured in coordination with criminal activity that has been and is being prosecuted by the United States attorney’s office,” the letter stated.

Micah Neal was a state representative serving with then-Sen. Jon Woods when steering state General Improvement Fund grants to the college in 2013 and 2014. The college’s then-president, Oren Paris III, passed kickbacks to Woods and Neal through consultant Randell G. Shelton Jr.

Neal was sentenced Thursday to three years’ probation, while Paris was sentenced to three years in prison a day earlier. Woods and Shelton were sentenced last week to more than 18 years and six years, respectively, in prison.

“With the sentencing of Micah Neal, we now have a better understanding of what is owed in restitution from the criminal defendants in this investigation,” Rutledge’s office said. “Attorney General Rutledge is reviewing all of the information available and plans to take appropriate action to recover any money owed to Arkansas taxpayers.”

Testimony at trial showed neither the college’s governing board nor its administration outside of Paris were aware of the kickbacks, said Travis Story, Ecclesia’s attorney. He also said the grant money was spent on exactly what it was given for.

“The last grant was received in early 2015, and generally there is a three-year statute of limitations on any suit you can file,” he said. “We’re past that.”

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.