VALERIE TATUM: Promises to correct initial campaign filing.

Perusing campaign finance filings yesterday, I discovered multiple problems on the report filed by Valerie Tatum, a candidate for Ward 2 on the Little Rock City Board, who already faces questions over her eligibility to run for the seat. UPDATE: She has filed an amended report.

You can see her report in full here.

Advertisement

There were these obvious issues:

* She reported contributions of $10,500 from Sammy J. Baker Sr. and $9,051 from McLarty Consulting. The state law limits individual contributions to $2,700. It also prohibits corporate contributions.

Advertisement

* She reported $6,050 in “fund-raising donations” attributed under the “place of business” column to Ugly Mike’s Records. This sounds like a contribution kitty maintained at a place of business. That method of fund-raising, without itemization, is frowned on by the state Ethics Commission. This issue remains unclear. If a single contribution from the record store, it is illegal.

Other basic bookkeeping problems turned up. The report says she’s made $43,261 in expenditures, but the report breaks out far less — $6,060 in unspecified “fund-raising expenses” and $8,700 in payments to campaign workers. The report claims more than $34,000 in “itemized” expenditures, but no others are itemized beyond the $14,760 worth.

Advertisement

The report summary claims more than $34,000 in “itemized” contributions though it includes that unsourced amount from Ugly Mike’s. The report said Tatum had also put $6,500 personally in the race. Candidates may spend an unlimited amount of their own money, though they often do so in the form of a loan so that they might raise money to pay themselves back.

I reached Tatum by telephone yesterday and her responses to questions were muddled. She said others prepared the report, though she signed it and attested it was “complete, true and accurate.” She said she’d be filing an amended report today, but had wanted to meet “due diligence” by filing a timely report yesterday. “I’ll get it cleaned up tomorrow,” she said.

I couldn’t get direct answers to questions about several points. The McLarty “contribution” perhaps should have been listed as an expenditure rather than a contribution, she seemed to suggest. It is a political consulting firm. The Ugly Mike money? I couldn’t get a clear response.

Tatum has had bookkeeping problems before. When she led the Covenant Keepers Charter School, a charter school panel recommended revoking its charter because of governance, financial and management issues. The pro-charter state Board of Education overturned the recommendation. Charter school backer, Claiborne Deming, the wealthy former Murphy Oil executive from El Dorado, was an early contributor of $1,000 to Tatum’s campaign. She says she’s “retired” from the charter school, where she’d been accused in 2015 of self-dealing.

Advertisement

Tatum enjoys some campaign support from prominent members of the Little Rock business establishment  — $750 from John and Shayla Copas, $500 from Gary and Rebecca Smith and $1,000 from Gus Vratsinas, all in the construction business.

City Attorney Tom Carpenter has said Tatum isn’t eligible to run for Ward 2 against incumbent Director Ken Richardson because when she filed she claimed a residence outside the ward. She moved to an address inside the ward after that was reported, though Carpenter says the law requires proper residency to become a candidate. The City Board has refused to take action over her candidacy.  She’s been represented legally in fighting Carpenter’s opinion by Jess Askew, a lawyer who often represents charter school, school choice and similar interests of the powerful school lobby led by the Walton Family Foundation.

I tried to find out from Tatum if she still owned the house in Maumelle that she has long claimed as a residence and on which she has claimed a homestead property tax exemption this year. She declined to answer questions about it. “I’d rather not,” she said.

UPDATE: She filed an amended report Wednesday. You can see it here. It still confuses me.

Instead of a $10,500 contribution from Baker, she now reports a $2,700 contribution and a $7,800 loan. She describes him as a relative. The law says:

1 Loans
A candidate shall treat a loan of money or goods as a contribution for purposes of campaign finance laws and of the rules that follow. A candidate receiving a personal loan from a financial institution must disclose the loan as a loan from the candidate to his or her campaign on the proper Contribution and Expenditure Report. On the issue of loans,

Where she had reported $6,050 from Ugly Mike’s she now reports $1,845.

Where she had reported more than $9,000 from McLarty Consulting, she now reports that as expenditures on campaign services to the political consulting firm.

She discloses a loan repayment, person or entity unspecified, of $7,800.

In all, the report now says she has spent $43,261 will raising only $13,495 in contributions. The ony lending on the firm is the amount reported from Baker. Some forensic accounting is needed here.

Advertisement