FAYETTEVILLE -- An act sponsored by then-state Sen. Jon Woods created a state account to benefit the roof shingle recycling industry, a business his two co-defendants in a pending public corruption case are in, a federal subpoena and legislative records show.
Act 441 of 2015, which created the shingle recycling account, was one of 10 legislative acts, a bill that didn't pass and two draft bills never introduced named in a subpoena under a court order issued Tuesday. The acts and the bill that didn't pass are available to the public, but the subpoena asks for the "bill files" for these measures, which contain the working papers and other documentation used in the drafting of the bills.
Woods is scheduled for trial beginning April 9 along with co-defendants Randell Shelton Jr. and Oren Paris III. Woods, R-Springdale, was sole sponsor of Act 441 of 2015.
Paris is accused of paying kickbacks to Woods and then-state Rep. Micah Neal of Springdale in return for state grants to Ecclesia College, where Paris is president. The kickbacks were passed through in the form of consulting fees paid on Ecclesia's behalf to Shelton, according to the government's case. Shelton is also Paris' partner in Shingle Resource Recycling LLC, which the two incorporated in 2015, according to secretary of state records. Both the shingle company and Shelton listed their address in 2015 and 2016 at 8532 Carrie Smith Road in Springdale, a property owned by Ecclesia.
The account created by Act 441 never had any money appropriated to it by the Legislature and was never specific to Shingle Resource, said Shelly Koehler, defense counsel for Shelton.
"Had the act been funded, which it was not, ADEQ would've been able to provide grants to any entity that fit ADEQ's requirements," Koehler said. "ADEQ would have had to come up with the requirements, not Senator 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."
The Environmental Quality department was checking its records on the matter Wednesday afternoon and hadn't answered whether the account had remained dormant before its offices closed Wednesday.
The other files on legislation listed in the subpoena are all appropriation bills regarding use of the General Improvement Fund, including regular budget bills passed by the Legislature in which Woods wasn't a sponsor. One of the bills set up an account similar to the shingle account at the state Department of Higher Education to benefit a work study college such as Ecclesia, but no money was ever put into that account either, the department confirmed earlier this year.
General Improvement Fund was the source of the grants to Ecclesia in the federal case. The fund consists of state tax money left unallocated at the end of each fiscal year and interest earned on state deposits. Each legislator was given a share of the fund to be directed to nonprofit groups or government entities. The state Supreme Court declared that method of funding distribution unconstitutional in a ruling Oct. 5.
Woods, Paris and Shelton have pleaded not guilty. Woods faces 15 counts of fraud, all relating to either wire or mail transfers of money. Paris and Shelton are named in 14 of the fraud charges. All three are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud. Woods is also charged with one count of money laundering in connection with the purchase of a cashier's check.
The trial is expected to last three weeks. A pretrial hearing is set for April 4. Hearings on motions are set for Jan. 10 and again Jan. 25.
Also Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks approved an order to subpoena records from Apple Inc. on a computer used by an investigator in the case. The computer's memory was wiped in what the defense has called an improper manner. The government has turned the matter over to the FBI for investigation.
NW News on 12/21/2017
Print Headline: Legislative records subpoenaed in kickback case