UPDATED THROUGHOUT: SEE JUMP FOR EXTENSIVE NEW DETAILS AND PDF DOCUMENTS FROM THE CASE FILE.
Alternate headline: DUMB AND DUMBER
Pulaski County School board member Tim Clark is trying to diminish his role in what a report by Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley said was a scheme to discredit fellow board member Gwen Williams.
But the prosecutor’s file contradicts Clark in a number of specific respects, including an account of Clark providing $2,500 to be used for expenses in the scheme. The file also provides many more details about the involvement of Michael Nellums, a principal at Mills High in the Pulaski school district and also a school board member in the neighboring Little Rock School District. Much of the evidence implicating Nellums came from a man who said he was a long-time friend.
Clark said in a prepared statement last night that he is innocent of all involvement and “will make every effort possible to clear my name.” Clark insists he had no part in recruiting Ervin Bennett — the man seen in a video presenting an envelope to Williams as part of a mock bribery act — or asking him to contact Gwen Williams. Clark, Jegley said, worked in league with Nellums. Clark went on to say that while Bennett did call him on a number of occasions to ask for money, he never gave him any. (Clark never called authorities about the supposedly suspicious contact, either.)
“We believe individuals in Mr. Jegley’s office offered Mr. Bennett immunity,” Clark writes, “and it appears those people based their report entirely on this man’s allegations.”
Clark is right about one thing: Jegley’s office did offer Bennett immunity in exchange for his statement. What Clark gets wrong, however, is his assertion that prosecutors didn’t do additional homework. The investigative file at the Pulaski County prosecuting attorney’s office — open now because the investigation has concluded — contains a trove of evidence that contradicts Clark’s assertions.
Jegley said no crime had been committed in the scheme to discredit Williams, but it was a “juvenile” act that wasted time of investigators and distracted the school district. Nellums has been suspended with pay from his job because of Jegley’s report. But both Clark and Nellums have said they have no intention of stepping down from their respective school board seats. The issue could arise at a special Pulaski County School Board meeting called for 7:30 p.m. tomorrow to discuss a recent ruling in the desegregation case. An executive session is also listed on the agenda.
Details from the investigation follow: