- Associated Press - Friday, June 2, 2017

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - An attorney for a northwestern Arkansas college said a motion to bar his firm from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the school is harassment.

Attorneys for former Ecclesia College teacher and board member Jim Parsons filed a motion seeking to disqualify the school’s attorney, Travis Story, and his firm from the lawsuit, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/2s1nTgQ ) reported.

Parsons’ attorneys said a lawyer practicing in Story’s firm sponsored two grants to Ecclesia.

Story called the motion a ruse to harass the school.

Parsons filed the lawsuit in February seeking documents related to state grants from the Springdale school. Arkansas legislators gave the private Christian college nearly $700,000 from the state’s General Improvement Fund.

The lawsuit argues that private organizations receiving public money are subject to the state’s open-records law. But the school contends that the requested documents can’t be released because they’re covered in a protective order issued by a federal judge hearing a corruption case involving the school’s president, Oren Paris III.

The school’s receipt of funding was questioned after Paris was accused of being involved in a bribery scheme involving former Arkansas lawmakers.

In March, former Sen. Jon Woods was named in the wire fraud indictment along with Paris and Randell Shelton Jr. The indictment alleges Woods and former state Rep. Micah Neal directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds intended for economic development to specific, unnamed entities. In exchange, Woods and Neal were to receive kickbacks.

Neal pleaded guilty in January to taking bribes that totaled $38,000 for helping two organizations receive grants through the state’s General Improvement Fund.

Story is seeking sanctions and dismissal of Parsons’ lawsuit.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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