Subpoena notes link among Arkansas senator, co-defendants
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Public records mentioned in a federal subpoena show that a legislative act sponsored by a former state senator established a fund that could have benefited shingle recyclers such as his two co-defendants in a public corruption case set for trial next year.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Thursday the subpoena seeks details on bills tied to an investigation into former Sen. Jon Woods, a Republican from Springdale. Act 441 of 2015 set up an account that could have benefited the shingle-recycling industry. The subpoena issued Tuesday mentions nine other bills, too.
Woods faces an April 9 trial with co-defendants Randell Shelton Jr. and Oren Paris III. The government says Paris paid kickbacks through Shelton to Woods and former state Rep. Micah Neal, R-Springdale, in return for $550,000 in state grants to Ecclesia College. All have pleaded innocent.
The bill benefiting shingle-recycling businesses is not related to the charges already announced against Woods, Shelton and Paris.
The newspaper’s report says the shingle-recycling bill Woods sponsored could have benefited a business that Shelton and Paris established at an address in Springdale owned by Ecclesia.
Shelton’s lawyer says the recycling account was never funded and that any company could have applied for benefits through the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
“ADEQ would have had to come up with the requirements, not Sen. Woods. ADEQ, independently, would have had to make any decisions on the issuance of the grant or even if they were going to issue it,” lawyer Shelly Koehler said in a statement to the newspaper.
Neal pleaded guilty in January to a conspiracy charge.
The grant money came from the state’s General Improvement Fund, which includes state tax money that remains unallocated at the end of the year. Legislators were allowed to direct money to nonprofit groups or government entities, but the state Supreme Court in October declared the practice unconstitutional.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com