Ecclesia president accused of kickback scheme with Arkansas lawmakers. His board and family disagree.
The brother of singer-songwriter Twila Paris was indicted this month by an Arkansas grand jury for bribery. Oren Paris III traded money to state lawmakers in exchange for grants to Ecclesia College, where he is president, court documents allege.
Paris has said he is innocent, and his school’s board is sticking by him.
“While the allegations made against Oren are to be taken seriously, we are confident once all the facts and the truth are made known, all will come to understand as we on the Board of Governance believe, that Oren has acted at all times with absolutely integrity and always in the best interests of Ecclesia College,” stated the school’s board of governance.
His famous sister also expressed her support.
“I am so blessed to have Oren as my brother and so grateful for his faithful service in God’s Kingdom,” she wrote on Facebook. “Those who know him well know that he is a man of deep integrity with a long established record of exemplary character. It is very clear that his highest aim is always to please God.
“My family and I are humbled and strengthened by the many people of good will who are believing the best and standing with us in prayer during this season we could never have imagined.”
The story is a tangled one, and it starts with the school. Sitting on 250 acres in Springdale, Ecclesia offers 17 degrees to about 283 students. It’s a “work college,” which means students do jobs on campus in exchange for lower tuition.
Ecclesia is like a family. Like the Paris family.
Her parents established the small Christian liberal arts college in 1975, along with Twila, her three younger siblings, and their grandparents. In the beginning, it hosted …