Legal Bill Rising for Conway Corp Over Land Issue

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013 12:00 am  

Karen Cooper said her 17,620 SF of farmland is worth more than Conway Corp.’s offer of $881. (Photo by Jason Burt)

Instead of paying a Faulkner County woman the $10,000 that she wanted for 17,620 SF of farmland, Conway Corp. has paid a Conway law firm more than $50,000 to represent it in a lawsuit over the disputed amount.

And the case, which has already been to the Supreme Court of Arkansas, isn’t over yet.

The issue of how much the land is worth and other damages is still pending in Faulkner County Circuit Court. A court date hasn’t been set.

“Ultimately, the ratepayers are bearing the cost of increased litigation because Conway Corp. is defending this,” said attorney Kent Walker of Little Rock, who is representing the landowners, Karen Ramsey Cooper and her husband, Jack Dowell.

Conway Corp. acquired 34 easements and crossed 41 parcels for a water project it was constructing, Conway Corp. CEO Richard Arnold said in a statement to Arkansas Business. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

“Only Ms. Cooper refused to accept the valuation we had used on all the other properties and, in fact, wants an amount which we cannot justify under any circumstances,” Arnold wrote. “This was the only property on which we had to use eminent domain to facilitate installation of the water main.”

Cooper said in court filings that she was offered $881 for her land.

If Cooper and Dowell win their counterclaim, Conway Corp. could be stuck paying Walker’s fees as well.

Meanwhile, two attorneys from the Millar Jiles LLP firm of Conway, which is representing Conway Corp., are facing contempt charges from the state Supreme Court for allegedly attempting to collect money from Cooper and Dowell even though they were told not to do so.

Attorneys Gary D. Jiles and Matthew K. Brown pleaded not guilty on Sept. 19 and have requested a hearing. The Supreme Court appointed Judge John Plegge as a special master. Once he’s done with the case, the Supreme Court will make a decision. A timetable isn’t available for when a ruling will be made.

Jiles and Brown didn’t return a call for comment.

In 2011, Conway Corp., the nonprofit organization that runs Conway’s city utilities, decided it needed to use Cooper’s land to install a water line for an improvement project for the new Conway airport.



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