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Sacramento City Council. (Photo: Sacramento City Council)

Sacramento City Council Pushes Out Messy Roberts Center Audit

Robert’s Center sponsored Children’s Fund ballot measure on March ballot to send $12.5 million to the Children’s Fund

By Rick Stevenson, October 29, 2020 7:30 am

An October 27th Sacramento City Council meeting included the City Auditor Jorge Oseguera’s report on the Roberts Family Development Center (RFDC) compliance with city contracts. Council discussion on the matter took up most of two hours. Council members, staff, and others participated online.

The Robert’s Development Center put forth the Sacramento Children’s Fund ballot measure proposal on the March 3rd 2020 city ballot which would have forced annually 2.5% of the city’s unrestricted revenues, starting at $12.5 million, to the Children’s Fund, leaving no discretion to the City Council, even in time of extreme emergency, such as a major levee failure.

The measure failed.

The audit makes it clear that the RFDC records are a mess with a number of financial aspects that could not be deciphered, and questioned how the RFDC will repay $400,000 owed to the state for illegally diverted funds from a state contract. The Sierra Health Foundation has taken over the RFDC accounting for $10,000 per month, and Oseguera questioned how that will be paid.

A number of factors came to light. A major construction project at the Roberts Center is expected to be paid for by the City. Sierra Health Foundation has received City funds for events that have actually been carried out by the Roberts Center.

Several Council members seemed ready to pour more money on the RFDC. However, Councilman Jeff Harris was eloquent in opposing more funding until all of the RFDC books are in order, and Councilwoman Angelique Ashby pointed out that the City had refused to donate to St. John’s Center for Real Change until a county audit was complete. She contended that the RFDC should not be held to a different standard. Mayor Darrell Steinberg suggested making Sierra Health the recipient of City funds intended for the RFDC.

The resulting Council vote was for the City Manager to assure RFDC books and accounting methods are up to standard before further City funding proposals are brought back to the Council.

While not part of the City audit, at times the Roberts Center has been heavily engaged in political activities, such as sponsoring Measure G on the March city ballot, as reported by the Globe in November 2019.

Derrell Roberts and Mayor Steinberg interned in Washington D.C. together decades back, which helps to explain some of the overt RFDC political activities. Defending the RFDC operation, Jim Keddy, headed the Measure G campaign, also carried out blatantly political activities while being paid by non-profits, similar to the RFDC.

An odd touch at the meeting was added by the Golden Gate Bridge scene projected behind Derrell Roberts.

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