The recent guilty plea by former Rep. Eddie Cooper to participating in a kickback scheme involving state money paid to a mental health services organization reminded me of a domestic matter involving Rogers lobbyist Milton “Rusty” Cranford, who’s been linked, but not charged, in the Cooper case and another federal probe alleging kickbacks to former legislators Micah Neal and Jon Woods.

To put it briefly: Court documents indicate that executives of the health organization or its subsidiaries conspired to ship money from the nonprofit, contrary to federal law, to campaign contributions, lobbying activities and kickbacks to legislators.


I noted in March that Cranford’s business activities had been raised in his pending divorce case in Benton County.  His lawyer then, Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, had asked for a delay in the case because the legislature was meeting. The attorney for Cranford’s wife said matters such as temporary support needed to be addressed and he suggested removal of Hutchinson from the case. His motion then noted Cranford’s involvement in the federal probe, but said it wasn’t a matter of record whether he’d been indicted. No indictment has since been filed.

What happened with the divorce case?


Hutchinson remains an attorney in the case, but has been joined by Kathryn Platt. A temporary order was issued that requires Cranford to pay $6,500 a month in child support;  $2,000 a month in spousal support; $1,300 a month for their two children’s schooling; $1,050 a month for his wife’s car payment; car insurance; the children’s health insurance, and the cost of  his wife’s cell phone, all told more than $11,000 a month. Trial dates have been set and then delayed to see if issues could be resolved by mediation.

Last week, on motion of the parties, Judge John Scott entered a protective order in the case. The parties said they were approaching an agreement. The order said, among others, that the information to be protected included employment agreements or payments to Rusty Cranford in 2017 “and information and/or documentation of any and all consideration, payments, set-offs or other benefit received or that will be received by the defendant and/or any entity or corporation in which the defendant has an interest as a result of such contracts and/or agreements of whatever kind or nature.” Cranford’s payments in 2017 might have some broader interest, given recent events.


Cranford no longer works for Preferred Family Healthcare or affiliates of the Springfield, Mo., organization that has received almost a billion dollars over the last eight years for providing a variety of Medicaid-paid services in four states.

Brian Burke, attorney for Cranford’s wife, Karen, said the trial in the divorce case had been postponed until March 15.