To Students, Faculty, Staff and Friends,I hope to talk to Paris. I'd like to ask him the name of his consultant and payments made to the consultant, if any. I left a message for him early in the day.
As a result of what was widely reported yesterday, I am aware of statements made in a plea agreement entered into by Representative Micah Neal. Suggested by those news reports was that Ecclesia College was somehow involved in criminal activity with Mr. Neal. While it is certainly true that Ecclesia College, like NWACC and the University of Arkansas, has received General Improvement Funds as reported, I can assure you that neither I nor anyone associated with Ecclesia College has ever participated or engaged in any activity to provide money to Mr. Neal or any other legislator in exchange for the receipt of those funds.
The search for funding sources is an important part of the life of any non-profit organization. As a Christian work-college, we are not eligible for the same level of government funding as public colleges and institutions, and have from time to time engaged consultants in those efforts. While Ecclesia College did receive GIF funds from the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development Corporation, every dollar of those funds have been used for the purposes for which they were requested. Every effort was made to comply with every aspect of the law as we understood it.
After reading the statements contained in Mr. Neal’s plea agreement, I can unequivocally state that neither I nor Ecclesia College have been party to illegal activity. We have never been a party to any agreements to funnel money to any state legislator.
At the end of the day, I am secure in the knowledge that there has been no wrongdoing either on my part or the school’s part, and any rumors, innuendo, or any future news reports that say otherwise are simply untruthful.
In His service,
Dr. Oren Paris III
President, Ecclesia College
A check dated January 5, 2015 and drawn on [the college] Entity B's Centennial Bank account ending in 0681 in the amount of $65,000 was issued to Person C's company and deposited that same day into Person C's company's Arvest Bank account ending in 7761. The check was issued at the direction of Person B. Over the following three days, Person C made three cash withdrawals per day totaling $53,700 from his company's Arvest Bank account ending in 7761.Who is Person C? The agreement describes the person as
Between approximately December 19, 2014 and approximately January 30, 2015, and following Entity B's receipt of NEAL's and Senator A's GIF money in the amount of $200,000, Senator A contacted NEAL and told him that Person C would be bringing $18,000 in cash to NEAL in exchange for NEAL having authorized and directed the appropriation of the GIF money to Entity B.
Between approximately December 19, 2014 and approximately January 30, 2015, and following NEAL's communication with Senator A, Person C met with NEAL and, on behalf of Person B, paid NEAL $18,000 in cash.
the incorporator and sole member of a limited liability corporation incorporated in the State of Arkansas that purportedly provides consulting services. Person C also was a friend of Senator A and Person B [the college president].
I have been a supporter of the mission of Ecclesia College, because I support the idea of a true work-college that limits student debt. I will be deeply disappointed if in fact it is found that Ecclesia has been involved in any illegal activity.I subsequently learned that Collins-Smith had also written a letter to the White River Planning and Development District, which covers her senatorial district, in support of help for Ecclesia, which is outside the White River region and her district. She said:
I did write them a letter of support, as I have for many other organizations. If I recall correctly Ecclesia did not receive any funding from White River PDD.
In this particular case I thought it was appropriate because a college like Ecclesia could have a local impact for students from my area by reducing debt as it is a work college.
Ultimately the decisions are made by the planning and development district and I have no issues with their decision not to fund the grant request.
Paris’ denial doesn’t address the reasons for the payment of $65,000 to Person C. To address this aspect of the plea agreement, Paris should identify the consultant and the nature of the payment to that person. Did Paris know that $18,000 would go to Neal? Did Neal believe Paris was involved in the scheme? Paris’ statement does not address these and other questions.
Note to my readers who write for Christian publications. Answers to these questions and eventual accountability may not come unless you all get involved. All people in this story (Neal, Woods, Paris III, Ecclesia College) claim to be evangelical Christians. There are substantial separation of church and state issues in this story as well since an unaccredited Bible college with a celebrity Board of Regents received substantial taxpayer dollars.