Gan Nunnally, who is challenging Rep. Jim Dotson in the Republican primary for the District 93 seat in Northwest Arkansas, passed along an open letter attacking his opponent for slopping up almost $40,000 in expenses charged to taxpayers on top of his $39,500 base salary as a legislator, the second highest tally in the state. Nunnally also goes after Dotson for directing public money toward Ecclesia College, the tiny Bible college in Springdale that is implicated in the ongoing federal bribery case against former state Sen. Jon Woods.
Dotson, himself an alumnus of Ecclesia, has not been charged with a crime but directed $13,500 in public money toward the school. Woods is charged with participating in an alleged kickback scheme to funnel public money to the school along with Ecclesia College president Oren Paris III and former state Rep. Micah Neal, who have already pleaded guilty. Part of the scheme, according to evidence presented at the Woods trial, was to convince other lawmakers to send yet more money to the obscure school, which has around 200 students (around half of whom are enrolled in distance learning); more than $700,000 in General Improvement grants went to Ecclesia over a fifteen-month period, allotted for dubious purposes.
Nunnally, the general manager of the Nunnally Chevrolet auto dealership in Bentonville, is running for office for the first time.
The open letter from Nunnally follows:
In my first entry into politics, I have started to see some of what frustrates current voters, and why Trump’s “Drain the Swamp” phrase took flight.
In my current run for the Arkansas House of Representatives District 93 seat, I have noticed several areas where I believe that traditional business acumen has not been applied by my opponent, Jim Dotson.
He ran unopposed for the District 93 seat in 2016.
Initially, when looking at the number of bills that my opponent has sponsored, you think, “Wow, this guy is really busy.” After taking a closer look, it seems that “any activity” was preferred to the “right activity.”
My opponent has held a number of professions, and currently that of a realtor. I am pleased that the Arkansas Realtors Association has supported my campaign as a first-timer challenging one of their own, a Real Estate agent. When I inquired as to why the group did not support Dotson, I was informed that the decision was made by their trustees, with input from their local Realtors in this district, and that after discussion of our qualifications and views on various issues relating to current real estate and small business issues in Arkansas, I was their choice. My opponent’s own state association chose me, Gan Nunnally.
This year, as a House Rep, Dotson kept a base salary of $39,500, and a daily per diem of $153. With the second highest expenses in the state, Dotson turned this Rep role into a $79,489 position (over $39,989 in expenses). The position of State Representative is one of duty and service to our citizens and to Bentonville. Dotson portrays himself as “proven conservative leadership,” but does not show the attention to budget and fiscal responsibility that is owed to our community. This is one of the many reasons that career politicians are on their way out.
Additionally, as the Ecclesia College fiasco has come to light as a known criminal slush fund, it has been glossed over that Dotson was one of the top 10 donors of GIF Funds to Ecclesia. There are several problems here. First, Ecclesia as a private institution should never have been receiving public funds, and it is the responsibility of our legislators to enforce this. Second, Dotson is an alumnus of Ecclesia College. This constitutes an immediate conflict of interest, and Dotson should have never even considered this as being appropriate for his constituents, or being ethically moral in a business transaction.
Third, these monies should have been returned to the taxpayers, who are now liable to make up this debt. In ethical business, we are forced to right these wrongs when other people’s money is at stake. Lastly, Dotson has tried to distance himself from the Ecclesia connection with claims that he was unaware of what was going on. This is an unacceptable response to the voters that he is asking to re-elect him, as it was his duty to thoroughly research and qualify any recipients of public funds.
My concern with how Bentonville’s District 93 was being legislated was brought to my attention over the past year by several groups of concerned citizens, which prompted my commitment to run for the Arkansas House of Representatives. I feel that the facts and decisions that have been made so far deserve question, and more importantly, deserve business solutions that make sense for our community.