By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
And they're off: With the city council campaign season heating up, we thought we'd look at some of the campaign finance reports of the incumbents to see how they've been spending their dough. We picked freshman council member Tennell Atkins first because we noticed several amendments to his reports.
Not only has Atkins been unable to accurately report the balance of his campaign account, but several times the account went into the red. Also, repayments of loans to himself and his wife were not properly reflected on his reports, an incorrect payment of $1,299 was recorded and nearly $9,000 has been paid in rent for office space in another district for a business Atkins denies even exists.
The office of Tennell Atkins & Associates, on the seventh floor of 351 W. Jefferson Blvd., certainly seemed empty when we dropped by, so Buzz called up Atkins' assistant Mary Hasan and asked her what goes on there.
"I don't really know," she said. "I think it might be accounting."
Ah, yes. That makes loads of sense for a man who seems to have trouble with his books. But as Hasan pointed out, Atkins collected a $3 million judgment from the city in 2003 after he sued, complaining he'd been screwed out of a contract for developing property at the former Redbird Airport. So it's not like he needs to count a few measly grand.
Atkins told us he's retired and devoting himself full-time to City Hall business—doesn't that make you feel better? Tennell Atkins & Associates "hasn't been operational since I took office," he said. That sort of raises the question: What exactly is Atkins doing in that Jefferson office? We would have asked him directly, but it took a bunch of tries just to get Atkins to answer our first round of questions. With him being retired and all, we figure he probably just keeps a foosball table in there for days when a man just needs a place to hang.
As for our other questions about his finance reports—about $4,000 in cash for "refreshments," the $118.07 expense to Sewell Village Cadillac for repairs and a payment for $1,299 made twice on the same day to Home Depot—Atkins said they were all legitimate. The refreshments were for campaign workers, he uses a car for campaigning and the double payment was simply a mistake. "I appreciate you pointing it out," Atkins said.
Why sure, Tennell. Glad to help, but we wonder: Have you ever thought about hiring an accountant?