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Judge approves judgment against Holliday

JONESBORO — A judge has approved a modified settlement between Craighead County and former County Clerk Kade Holliday, giving the county most everything he owns.

The county filed a civil lawsuit on June 29 after Holliday, 31, of Jonesboro, was arrested on charges he stole nearly $1.6 million in public funds while serving as an elected official.

Lawyers for Holliday and the county proposed a consent judgment on Aug. 25, in which Holliday doesn’t contest the county’s claims against him and authorizes transfer of his assets to the county.

Jetton General Contracting of Paragould, however, objected to the proposed settlement, claiming its interest in part of Holliday’s assets should be preserved.

Jetton is suing Holliday and Total Healthcare LLC, a company he co-owned with Rose Hankins, for nearly $435,000 for its work on a Nashville facility for Twisted Foods.

Jetton said a receiver should have been appointed, as the county had initially requested in its lawsuit, to supervise liquidation of Holliday’s assets.

But in a decision handed down Wednesday evening, Circuit Judge Richard Lusby said requiring the county and Holliday to continue to litigate a case in which they’ve already reached an agreement would simply add more expenses, including attorneys’ fees. He said a delay would also “unnecessarily risk loss of value of assets and resources for payments.”

Lusby said Jetton’s attorneys were unable to find a legal reason to justify blocking the settlement. He noted Jetton’s interests remain protected by the revised phrasing in one paragraph of what is now called the partial consent judgment:

“That the Defendant is hereby authorized to transfer and assign his interests in any and all real, personal, or intangible property for the purpose of satisfying this and all other Judgments.”

The judgment awards the county $1,415,304.79 for actual compensatory damages, plus $36,082.99 in interest. The county’s attorneys were also awarded $21,025.75 in fees.

Holliday is scheduled to appear Oct. 29 for a hearing in his criminal case, with a trial scheduled for the week of Nov. 9.

Holliday is accused of transferring public funds from county bank accounts to personal accounts during the first half of this year.

Nearly $1.6 million had been stolen since January from county employees’ federal and state payroll tax withholding funds as well as those to the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System, according to court documents.

Woman faces 40 felonies in forgery cases

JONESBORO — A woman faces 40 felony charges after police said she somehow managed to alter a $5 cashier’s check to buy a $13,800 all-terrain vehicle in Jonesboro.

Johnni Danielle Smullins, 42, of Delaware in Logan County, Ark., was ordered held in lieu of a $100,000 cash bond.

Craighead County District Judge Tommy Fowler found probable cause Friday to charge Smullins with theft of a vehicle valued at more than $5,000, 36 counts of second-degree forgery, another theft count, possession of drug paraphernalia and criminal possession of a forgery device.

Police learned of the case on Aug. 19, after Jonesboro Cycle and ATV discovered the check Smullins presented to buy the ATV was a forgery.

According to a probable cause affidavit, police obtained an arrest warrant for the ATV fraud on Aug. 28, but before they could find her, they were notified she used another forged cashier’s check to buy a vehicle at another Jonesboro business.

She was arrested Monday after Plaza Tire Service reported she had written a forged check to pay for work done on yet another vehicle. Police learned that vehicle had been reported stolen in Memphis.

A search of a purse she had in her possession and the vehicle revealed a meth pipe, numerous forged or altered checks, copies of checks, blank check paper, label printers, erasable pens, financial documents belonging to victims in the Little Rock area, and a laptop computer with a printer.

Smullins gets around. A review of online court records showed she has active criminal cases in Pulaski, Poinsett, Sharp and Pope counties – all forgery and fraud related.

She is serving three years of probation in five separate forgery cases in Logan County, which is in western Arkansas. She has also served probation in a previous Poinsett County case.

In 2014, she received a five-year prison sentence in Craighead County on forgery charges.

She was ordered to appear Oct. 27 in Craighead County Circuit Court to face her new charges. If convicted, she could potentially receive more than 300 years in prison.

Ellie Kate Lindley, 7, shows off her catch as her dad, Adam Lindley, snaps the photo. Ellie Kate is a second-grader at Valley View and loves to fish and swim. If you have an interesting photo of people doing activities in Northeast Arkansas, email it to cwessel@ jonesborosun.com and it may be published in The Sun.

Another bunker

Council to consider property swap

JONESBORO — A proposed property swap that would provide the City of Jonesboro’s Property Maintenance Department with upgraded facilities will be on the city council agenda Tuesday.

The council’s public works committee recommended the deal to the council Sept. 1 even though it wasn’t on its agenda, prompting some residents to question why.

Mayor Harold Perrin had hoped to gain full council approval that same evening, Bill Campbell, the city’s communications director, said Friday.

Under the proposal, the city would acquire the building at 907 Congress Circle, which was appraised with a value of $595,000 in 2017. Tim Thrasher and Tim Allison, owners of that building would be paid $350,000 and receive title to city-owned property at 215 E. Allen Avenue and 202 E. Gordon St., which was appraised in May with a value $214,000.

The Sun requested additional information Friday on how the land swap was arranged. While the process for selecting the property wasn’t explained, an email Mike Downing, the mayor’s chief of staff, sent to council members on Sept. 1 in advance of the meeting was made a part of the agenda package released Thursday afternoon.

According to the email, the city’s Building Facilities Committee, composed of a combination of city staff members and private citizens, approved the transaction on Aug. 26.

“The Mayor asked if we could have this walked on for Public Works Com and Council this afternoon to expedite the move,” Downing’s email said.

Because the proposal is in the form of a resolution, the land deal can be approved with one vote.

Ordinances require three separate readings and usually are heard in three separate meetings, unless the council votes to suspend the rules.

In other business the council will hear the first readings of two proposed rezoning ordinances, both of which were recommended for approval by the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission.

South Caraway Baptist Church, 3707 S. Caraway Road, seeks to rezone its 16.77-acre campus from R-1 single family residential to C-3 general commercial district.

A church representative told the MAPC last week the property is under contract to a buyer who wishes to establish a faith-based daycare facility that would not be affiliated with the church.

The other proposal, by Ashley Tallant, would rezone 0.28 acres at 911 E. Parker Road, near Harrisburg Road, from CR-1 commercial residential mixed use district to C-3 with a limited use. Tallant proposes a hair salon for the property.

The council will hear a presentation by Planning Director Derrel Smith, then hear the second reading of a proposed ordinance to adopt the Downtown Jonesboro Development Code, which is a new approach to redeveloping Jonesboro’s oldest neighborhoods.

Also scheduled for a second reading is a proposal by Alberto Morales to rezone 0.166 acres at 1330 W. Monroe Ave. from C-3 general commercial to RS-7 single family residential. Morales intends to build one home on the property.

The council will hear the final reading and vote on a proposed ordinance that would exempt new “planned industrial parks” from the city’s requirement to construct sidewalks.

The council will meet at 5:30 p.m. in Municipal Center, 300 S. Church St.

The council’s public safety committee will meet at 5 p.m., and the public services committee will convene at 4:30 to hear a presentation on how Jonesboro Economical Transportation plans to spend $2,633,991 in one-time funding authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, attendance inside the meeting room will be limited. Most council members will be attending via teleconference.

A-State 11th-day enrollment at 13,843

JONESBORO — Arkansas State University reported to the Arkansas Division of Higher Education (ADHE) that its total enrollment on the 11th day of classes for fall 2020 was 13,843 students – with an estimated 11,382 attending classes on the Jonesboro campus.

A‑State had 13,891 students in fall 2019; a 48-student difference amounts to a 0.3 percent decrease from fall 2019, the university reported Thursday.

“It is remarkable to see that our overall enrollment is close to what we had last fall in spite of the great challenges we are facing through the coronavirus pandemic,” Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said. “At the same time, we also recognize that our enrollment mix will ultimately determine the impact of enrollment on our budget.”

Among the 10 four-year public universities in Arkansas, the average decline in enrollment this fall is 2.1 percent, while community colleges saw a 7.1 percent decline in enrollment this year.

A-State set a new record for first-year student retention as 79 percent of the fall 2019 first-year students are enrolled in their second year of classes this fall. It breaks the previous mark of 76.6 percent two years ago.

“The efforts made by our faculty and academic support teams to identify how we can assist our first-year students were outstanding this past year,” Damphousse said. “Consider that not only were these students in their first year of college, they were also caught up in the rapid shift to online instruction last spring due to the pandemic ...”

This year’s on-campus freshman class is 1,264, a decline of 85 students from last year.

“I don’t think that we will ever be able to measure the impact of the global pandemic on the size of our incoming Class of 2024,” Damphousse said. “It was certainly challenging for our admissions team to recruit students after schools across the state closed down in March. Anecdotally, we know that many prospective students preferred to stay closer to home this fall, to attend college 100 percent online or to not attend college at all.”

Meanwhile, A-State’s online enrollment rose to new heights for this fall, with a total of 4,638 students enrolled for the first fall session. This included a record 996 undergraduate students enrolled in 100 percent online programs, an increase of 28.2 percent growth over last year.

“We continue to be the leader in online instruction for our state, and as we begin our second decade of offering 100 percent online graduate and undergraduate programs, we are exploring new pathways to success for students who prefer learning in an online environment,” Damphousse said.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of working adults, for example, who are entering our undergraduate online programs to complete a degree that they started elsewhere. Without our online program, most of these students would not be able to earn a four-year degree,” he said.

Campus Queretaro is welcoming a record 255 new first-year students into its program this fall, with a total of 737 students enrolled. This is the fourth year of operations for A-State CQ.

Another enrollment increase for A-State was among concurrent high school students, up 2.2 percent to 728 students, bolstered in part by A-State’s collaboration with the Governor’s Office initiative to provide computer coding classes for high school students.

Compared to fall 2019, A-State experienced significant reductions in transfer students (-21 percent) and international students (-19 percent) this fall.

“The typical transfer student comes to A-State from a community college. The pandemic reduced recruiting effectiveness there, and we are also seeing a decline in attendance for the community college population statewide,” said Damphousse. “International student enrollment is struggling across the country as those students face difficulties in reaching the United States due to the global pandemic.”

A-State is experiencing an increase in graduation rates. Only 37 percent of A-State freshmen in 2007, for example, graduated within six years.

“A-State’s current six-year graduation rate is now over 50 percent, so we are not surprised to see fewer returning students this fall,” Damphousse said. “But we also built our FY21 budget based on a 5 percent decrease in enrollment this fall because of the unknown impact of the pandemic. Now that our enrollment is set, we can begin determining the impact of our enrollment mix on our budget. That includes calculating the total enrollment revenue net of expenses like scholarships, tuition waivers, marketing and payroll.”