Placer supes’ disputed charity fund has new look, old concerns

Ex-supervisor didn’t share Roseville’s revenue-sharing share
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A $100,000 fund dispensing money to charitable causes and controlled by the Placer County Board of Supervisors still stands after weathering an internal challenge. Three supervisors – Kirk Uhler, Jim Holmes and Robert Weygandt – won out, retaining board members’ power to turn down some applicants and recommend others to the full board. The other two supervisors – Jack Duran and Jennifer Montgomery – both campaigned and won elections against incumbents that included criticism of the so-called revenue-sharing funding program. Critics have called it a slush fund but proponents say they consider it a means for the county to support and encourage community and charitable causes. With a vote earlier this month keeping the fund in place, Duran lost an attempt to put the program on hold for a year. He cited the economic downturn and losses in county revenues as reasons to cut back a program. While the county had made several cuts elsewhere in its budget, revenue sharing has survived any drop in funding. Duran said this week that he’s ready to move on to other business with the board after the discussion on revenue sharing and the ultimate vote Oct. 11. “To me, it’s just not the right time (to keep the $100,000 fund),” Duran said. “When we’re able to help out service organizations, that position would be subject to change.” The board did vote for a change. The county will now be posting applications for a 14-day public comment period on its website before a supervisor’s recommendation. Duran said he feels it was a positive move toward more transparency on the process. But it wasn’t a big enough step to take because it still leaves board members making the decisions, he said. Under the new guidelines, supervisors will also be able to post their reasons behind the decision. County calculations show Jim Holmes as the current supervisor who is most active in the revenue-sharing program. In the period from July 2010 to the beginning of last June, Holmes’ District 3 utilized $16,850 of its $20,000 allotment. Weygandt's district accounted for another $9,200 in revenue-sharing grants and Uhler’s trailed with $3,200. Montgomery earmarked all of her district’s $20,000 to the county Health & Human Services Department programs. At the Oct. 11 meeting, Duran and Montgomery said their district’s shares will be used this year for the department’s programs. In all, the program spent just over half of the budgeted $100,000 by the end of June on requests from the community. Holmes said he tries to take a low-key approach to the donations, emphasizing that they’re from the county and not from him. He won’t accept tickets or distribute tickets to friends that may come with a donation, he said. Holmes said he’s also not in favor of signs or other acknowledgements with supervisors’ names on them that may be put up by recipients at events and would like to pursue a policy that prevents that. “I don’t want to flaunt it,” Holmes said. “But Placer County should have an opportunity to contribute to these events.” Holmes cites $1,000 from revenue sharing that went to the recent Eggplant Festival in Loomis. “It brings the community together and attracts people from outside the community,” Holmes said. “The place was packed.” Ex-supervisor didn’t share Roseville’s revenue-sharing share The charity fund for Placer County supervisors to give out to local non-profits is called “revenue sharing” but what happens when a supervisor doesn’t want to share? Supervisor Jack Duran was sworn in as a new Board of Supervisors member for the Roseville area’s District 1 last January – halfway through the fiscal year. But all except $50 in the district’s $20,000 revenue-sharing fund had already been spent. Duran defeated Rocky Rockholm in early June 2010 in a two-candidate race for supervisor but Rockholm remained in office for the next seven months. During that time, Rockholm made several comparatively large recommendations for donations to charitable causes in his district and was able to garner the majority vote for the county to pay out what amounted to all of the district’s funding for the fiscal year in half a year. Duran had expressed opposition during his campaign to fund expenditures at the current time. The election was also bitterly fought by candidates with opposing political viewpoints. But Rockholm said this week that his decision to draw the District 1 fund down before he left “had nothing to do with Jack.” “I just wanted to give to charities that had been funded in the past,” Rockholm said. “It was my last chance to share those funds so I did. I did the same thing as I did the year before and I gave it to good causes.” Duran acknowledged that he was aware that Rockholm drew down the fund during the final months of his term but opted not to criticize his predecessor. Instead, Duran reiterated that he thinks now is not the right time to have the $100,000 revenue- sharing fund in operation. Last fiscal year, a total of 83 requests for funding were approved. The Placer County grand jury the year before had recommended that the county not only post approved funding proposals but also provide a list available to the public of requests that were turned down by supervisors before they went to the board. Fourteen were turned down by individual supervisors this past fiscal year and 13 the year before. Among the requests for funding that were turned down by Rockholm was one from the Hispanic Empowerment Association of Roseville for its annual Cesar Chavez Youth Leadership Conference in Roseville. The event provides leadership and mentoring for sixth to 12th grade students. Rene Aguilera, a coordinator of the program, said he felt that Rockholm was playing politics in turning down the request in January 2010 after learning that he would be supporting Duran in the election. Aguilera said that he expressed his concerns to Rockholm but was assured that the revenue- sharing funding would still be available. “I said it to his face that I was not going to endorse him and he said that we would still get some money for revenue sharing,” Aguilera said. “I was surprised (that no money was granted).” Rockholm has a different view on why the money wasn’t made available. The former supervisor – who said he’s now enjoying retirement from politics after serving both with the county and on the Roseville City Council – recalled that Aguilera even threatened the county with a lawsuit when his group couldn’t get funding. Rockholm said he didn’t recommend the Hispanic Empowerment Association for revenue sharing because the funds would have targeted one group. “I would have done the same thing if it was Hispanic or Jewish,” Rockholm said. “There is no record that shows Aguilera’s group has done anything but help Hispanic children.” Top revenue sharing recipients Placer County revenue sharing guidelines advise that requests provide limited financial support for local events, fundraising, programs, supplies, improvements and equipment needed to help non-profit and community based organizations. Typically the requests are for relatively small amounts of funding such as $100, $500 or $1,000, the guidelines state. This past fiscal year, the county provided 83 grants totaling $53,376 – an average of $643 per grant. But that average was skewed by several large expenditures from the fund. Here’s a list of revenue-sharing fund grants the county gave for $1,000 or more: $6,000 Roseville Tommy Apostolos fundraiser (Rockholm $5,000; Uhler $1,000) $3,000 Roseville Firefighter Local 1592 golf tournament (Rockholm) $2,950 Placer Breast Cancer Endowment Fund fundraiser (Rockholm $2,500; Holmes $200; Uhler $250)) $1,750 Roseville Joint Union High School Santucci-Gaines scholarship golf tournament (Rockholm $1,500; Uhler $250) $1,500 Sierra College Foundation Taste of Excellence fundraiser (Weygandt $500; Uhler $500; Holmes $500) $1,500 The Gathering Inn Annual Crab Feed fundraiser (Weygandt $250; Holmes $1,000; Rockholm $250) $1,450 Lighthouse Counseling & Family Resource Center fundraisers (Holmes $200; Weygandt $500; Rockholm $750) $1,250 Lincoln Area Chamber Lincoln Showcase (Weygandt) $1,200 Lincoln Arts and Culture Foundation annual Feats of Clay (Weygandt) $1,000 Roseville Host Lions Club Christmas Food Basket Program (Rockholm) $1,000 Auburn Chamber of Commerce 4th of July community celebration (Holmes) $1,000 Loomis Eggplant Festival (Holmes) $1,000 City of Lincoln 4th of July celebration (Weygandt) $1,000 Placer Sportsmen annual kid’s fish derby (Rockholm $500; Holmes $500) $1,000 Protect American River Canyons confluence festival (Holmes) $1,000 Auburn Area Chamber State of the Community event (Holmes) Source: Placer County CEO’s office