Council's Cell Phone Phanatic

Todd talks up a storm at taxpayer expense

Even before Rob split with his wife in June, the tracks of his cell phone indicate he was on the prowl. Records show Todd called the Keller household on May 12 -- three months after Keller separated from wife Susan and moved out -- for a 44-minute chat. Todd's bills reflect seven calls to the River Oaks residence of Susan Keller's mother -- the place where Susan often stayed -- over a two-day period later in May. Soon after that, Todd made two more calls to the Keller home, followed by calls to Susan's cell phone on May 24. These were the only Keller-related calls among the blizzard of redactions on the bills from April through June. Interestingly, nothing is redacted from the Todd cell phone bills for the period after Todd himself filed for divorce in June.

Asked about the calls to Susan Keller, Todd responded, "I don't recall. It's been some time ago.I'm not going to comment on anything of a personal nature."

Contacted for comment about Todd, Keller responded, "I think it's just sick that he called my mother-in-law's house. Thank God there's a Holy Spirit, because this guy's a nightmare."

Todd Unplugged: The councilman who can talk the talk.
Deron Neblett
Todd Unplugged: The councilman who can talk the talk.

(Bert also wanted to clarify that he hasn't dated an 18-year-old country-western singer, as mentioned in last week's Insider, but only spent time with her during a visit with her family.)

The split with Penny also created a problem for Todd when it came time in July to file his campaign contribution and expenditure report for January through July. The report lists Penny Todd as campaign treasurer, but the councilman ordered his aide Alex Thompson to compile the report during working hours in Todd's office at the City Hall Annex. That's an apparent violation of regulations prohibiting the use of city assets for campaign purposes.

Todd says Thompson volunteered to do the report on comp time and that the use of the council office was insignificant.

The aide says, "I just filled in the blanks." Blanks he consistently did not fill in were the ones that read "purpose of expenditure" for withdrawals made from the Todd campaign account. They include payments of $10,460 and $3,470 made directly to the councilman. In addition, Todd charged $14,800 to three credit cards. The dollars may be reimbursements for legitimate campaign functions, but it is impossible to tell from the disclosure report.

Without providing documentation, Todd says the direct payments to him are repayments of old loans he made to his campaign when he first ran for office five years ago. As for the credit card charges, he says they were all related to the campaign or city service. He cites a trip he took to Seattle in spring to study the town's civility laws, information that might really come in handy in his future dealings with Keller.

The July report also documented nearly $7,000 in payments to GOP political consultant Allen Blakemore. Todd contributed $5,000 to the Conservative Republicans of Harris County, a political action committee controlled by westside religious right activist Dr. Steven Hotze. Blakemore is also a paid consultant for Hotze, and the PAC lists its address as Blakemore's office on Richmond.

Todd also gave the Gary Polland-chaired Harris County Republican Party $3,700. Keep in mind the spending spree occurred after Todd had been re-elected last November. He is in his third and final third term and cannot run for council again.

Todd has made no secret of his goal to run for the Precinct 2 County Commissioner seat Jim Fonteno is expected to relinquish in early 2003. Todd leaves City Council in January 2002 and could immediately launch a campaign for the post.

"It's obvious Todd's trying to buy conservative support in his race for commissioner," says a political consultant taking the pulse of the developing county race. "Politically, he's definitely running unless he gets bloodied so bad over this business with Keller's wife."

If he does make the race, perhaps Todd can campaign on the slogan, "A free cell phone in every pot."

Eat and Shoot

It's the kind of party you could expect to attend only in Texas. Top executives of federal offices in the Houston area have been invited to "a barbecue luncheon and shoot-off" Monday, October 30, at the FBI's state-of-the-art gun range in Conroe.

Houston Federal Executive Board director Michael Mason sounded positively breathless in his description of the soiree. Mason invited the execs and a staffer to take advantage of "live fire exercises and simulated exercises." "You may bring your own handgun. A barbecue luncheon, at no cost to you and your guest, will be catered."

Mason's RSVP request was also a bit unconventional.

"In order to provide enough food and ammunition (and FBI Firearms instructors), we need to know if you are bringing your own weapon and what caliber it is."

Let them eat lead!

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