Monday, October 26, 2009

Three county officials volunteer on the board of Children's Initiative; charity gets contract

Charity gets contract for after-school services
Three county officials volunteer on the board of Children's Initiative
By Jeff McDonald
Union-Tribune Staff Writer
October 26, 2009

Background: To balance the county's budget this past spring, county supervisors trimmed the popular after-school program Critical Hours.

What's changing: Supervisor Ron Roberts last week sought and received board approval for a no-bid contract to restore some funds. The deal calls for up to $241,981 to go to a nonprofit that has three top county officials on its board of directors.

The future: The agreement runs through June 30, 2010, and may be extended six months if additional funding is found.

San Diego County has awarded a no-bid contract worth up to $241,981 for after-school services to a charity that has three top county officials on its board of directors...

The money will fund after-school services for low-income children in Supervisor Ron Roberts' district. The Board of Supervisors approved the award last week without debate.

The action will restore lost funding for Critical Hours, a program that was trimmed earlier this year when supervisors were scrambling to balance the county's annual budget.

The Children's Initiative board includes Walt Ekard, county chief administrative officer; Nick Macchione, Health and Human Services Agency director; and Mack Jenkins, chief probation officer.

Roberts, who recommended the agreement to his colleagues, said he did not know Ekard and two other administrators served on the charity board...

Waiving the competitive-bid rule will get funds quickly to the nonprofit, Roberts said, noting its history of working well with the county.

The Children's Initiative is run by Sandra McBrayer, a member of the county's First 5 Commission, which distributes about $40 million a year in tobacco tax money for early-childhood programs...

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob, who is also the First 5 Commission chair, said the Children's Initiative contract is a different situation.

“There, we needed to do away with the perception that First 5 board members and advisory board members could influence the allocation of grant funding for personal benefit,” Jacob said. “Here, a member of the Board of Supervisors made the recommendation, not other county officials.”...

The Critical Hours program was promoted by Roberts and Supervisor Greg Cox in the 1990s in response to research showing that most youth crime occurs between 2 and 6 p.m.

Since 1997, the county has invested more than $19 million in the program, according to the Children's Initiative, which coordinates the services across the region.

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