ATLANTA - Our FOX 5 I-Team investigation of the Atlanta mayor's race and several city council races continues with another look at taxpayer-funded mailings.
Our I-Team followed the money to find that taxpayers spent more than $165,000 in 2017 to send out city council candidate's flyers and newsletters.
When a burning I-85 collapsed earlier this year there was round the clock coverage of the interstate closing, rebuilding, and rerouting.
The bridge collapse was in Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan's District 6, and despite the nonstop coverage he thought Atlanta citizens needed more.
So, he sent out a taxpayer-funded flyer about a month after the collapse. Even though Wan represents District 6, he sent the flyer out all over the city. Wan is now running for a citywide position of Atlanta city council president. He asked city Ethics officer if it was ok, and Jabu Sengova wrote him that she sees "no ethical issues raised”
Taxpayer's cost: $34,718.
Alex Wan said: “It was an extraordinary incident that impacted the entire city.”
Sara Henderson of good government group, Common Cause disagrees. “Why didn’t you get it out right away,” says Henderson. “I mean you know we look back at the timeline and the bridge was almost finished by the time he got his mailer out, so it looks like campaign literature.”
District Councilwoman Felicia Moore is also running for City Council President, and she says her flyers are different. She says she sent informational notices like Movies in the Park and a tire drive this year and a twice a year district newsletter. But, she says she sent those flyers only to residents in her district - not citywide.
Taxpayers cost: $19,579.54
“It certainly would help,” (to send it city wide). “That's not something I think I should do as a district council member, says Moore. "I want to spend the money in the district that I am representing.”
But Alex Wan and Felicia Moore's mailings are far surpassed by another city council president candidate C.T. Martin. We found he mailed multiple informational flyers for a Senior Fair, Movies in the Park, and Fight Against Blight in his district.
Then, he mailed a recycling flyer. Martin represents District 10. But he mailed it to potential voters all across the city who can't vote for him as a councilman, but could vote for him as a council president.
Martin wrote me to say many of his constituents don't follow social media, so flyers are a way to reach people. "Don't they deserve to know about services that are available to them?" he asked.
Total cost for Martin's mailings $56,826.
“$56,000. It's just obscene. It's obscene. It's obscene," says watchdog Henderson.
When we looked at individual council races we found a wide range of spending. Natalyn Archibong, Carla Smith, and Howard Shook said they didn't mail any flyers.
Andre Dickens mailed one flyer for a Jazz concert at $961. Ivory Young had one mailing that cost only $889 and Joyce Shepard sent out a range of mailings that cost taxpayers $14,353.
Cleta Winslow had a number of mailings, including one for the Civil Rights Museum, in which she told us she was a board member, and a 20-page District 4 update. But, she didn't provide us with the cost.
Taxpayers cost: Unknown.
But the king of city council newsletters is Michael Bond. He says he has sent out flyers for seven years. This year he sent out a number of informational flyers and then two different 20-page legislative updates, including one with 63 pictures of him, working, speaking, even playing Santa Claus.
“No, it’s not a campaign flyer,” insists Bond. “it's in this format I'm proud of. Because it’s on newsprint, it's the cheapest way to print a newsletter.
Cheap perhaps, but the newsletters and flyers together cost $41,147 of taxpayer’s money.
“This is too much. This is way too much and it's really obscene the way that these candidates are spending taxpayer money to the campaign,” says Henderson.
Now, an update on our early survey of Mayoral candidates. A Fulton county commission spokesperson told me former Chairman John Eaves, who is running for Mayor, had no taxpayer-funded mailings. We reported what we were told.
Then, we got a John Eaves 8 by 6, double sided postcard paid for by taxpayers. It was a 10-year review.
Apparently, the Fulton commission clerk missed 5 payments totaling $9,447.
Chairman Eaves told the county that this mail order should have been canceled and he promised to pay for it.
Eaves resigned from his commission seat at the August 16 board meeting. The vendor told the county the 20,000 postcards were mailed in October.