Lawmaker admits dodgy dealings with a Bible college
Micah Neal, above, an outgoing Arkansas state lawmaker, pleaded guilty this week to conspiring with a state senator and others to arrange kickbacks from the funding of two organisations – one a Bible College.
As part of his guilty plea, Neal admitted that, between January 2013 and January 2015, while serving in the Arkansas House of Representatives, he conspired with the state senator to use their official positions to hand $600,000 from the state’s General Improvement Funds (GIF) to a pair of non-profit entities in exchange for bribes.
A Justice Department press release said that Neal personally authorised and directed a total of $175,000 to the organisations.
In return for his official actions, Neal received approximately $38,000 in bribes from officials at those non-profit entities.
The Friendly Atheist Hermant Mehta revealed that Ecclesia College, an “Christ-centred” evangelical outfit headed by Dr Oren Paris III – pictured above with a graduade – received £200,000 … and that Neal faces up to 20 years in prison on top of a $250,000 fine.
However, as a first-time offender, it’s unlikely that he’d get anything like that. The most recent post in his Twitter timeline is a retweet that says, ‘Praise God even when you dont understand what He’s doing’.
Although Paris vehement denied on Facebook that his school had anything to do with bribery or kickbacks, Mehta said that the plea agreement, however, suggests that:
Paris was actively involved in the scandal. If that’s confirmed, it’d be a major blow to the school and its leader. This Facebook post could also easily come back to haunt him.
Paris wrote on Facebook:
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.
Governor Asa Hutchinson, speaking on Wednesday at a pre-legislative session sponsored by the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors, said the conduct described in the charges was:
Reprehensible for a legislator.
Neal, whose family owns a Springdale restaurant, won the Republican Party’s nomination for Washington County judge last year but dropped his bid abruptly four months later. Neal cited business and family-related reasons for ending his campaign.