The Pulaski sheriff’s office obtained a warrant today for the arrest of Dennis Rainey on a Class B felony charge of criminal mischief for his cutting of trees on Central Arkansas Water property to improve the view from his hilltop home on Spillway Road overlooking Lake Maumelle.
Rainey told the CAW board in May that water officials had given him permission to top hardwoods and fell pines. Officials of the agency disputed that. The utility found 111 trees, including some on Ouachita Trail right of way, had been damaged or cut down. The utility put the value in aesthetic loss at more than $100,000.
A Class B felony charge means more than $25,000 worth of damage was done. The charge will require proof of intentional misconduct, which Rainey can be expected to dispute. I have been unable to reach him or his attorney, Rick Donovan of the Rose Firm. Rainey, 73, an evangelist who founded the Family Life religion-based counseling service, has expressed interest in working out a settlement of the issue.
A spokesman for the sheriff’s office said Rainey is expected to surrender on the charge with his attorney Friday in Pulaski district court. Class B felonies in Arkansas can carry a prison sentence from 5 to 20 years and a $15,000 fine.
The affidavit with the warrant was completed by Detective Da’Vonti Armant, who recounted how the tree-cutting was discovered by a neighbor, Rhonda Patton, who reported the damage to the utility and others, including media. She was told by the tree-cutting crew they were working for Rainey.
Armant quoted Raven Lawson, watershed manager for the water utility, who said 111 trees were cut with a value of $109,899.20. She said approximately $12,000 was spent on cleanup.
Armant said he interviewed Rainey, who confirmed he’d hired a tree-cutting service to provide a better view from his residence. Rainey also said he knew the trees belonged to CAW, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit continued: “Rainey stated he received permission from two former CAW employees that he would be able to cut the trees, which was later determined no to be the truth.”
This is a reference to the late former CAW director Jim Harvey, whose widow disputed Rainey at the May meeting, and Ed Odle, a former supervisor of Lake Maumelle, the utility’s main water supply, now retired. He also told current water employees that he had not given permission.