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A report released today by the California State Auditor urges San Diego County to invest all the tribal grant money it receives from the state to mitigate impacts of tribal casinos.

Currently, the county uses interest generated from the state grants — which aim to offset the impacts of rural tribal casinos — to boost its general fund.

The report notes that San Diego used $41,700 in interest earned from two grants given to the sheriff’s department in order to boost its general fund, where it was not used to mitigate for casinos’ impacts. The report says that shouldn’t have happened.

The report found that San Diego County spent $4.6 million of state grants to address casino impacts. But $360,000 was spent on projects that were not primarily related to casinos, the auditor found.

“We found that local governments are not always using grant funds to mitigate the impacts of casinos on communities most directly affected,” the report states.

In a written response to the auditor, county Tribal Liaison Chantal Saipe said the county’s expenses were casino-related. Saipe said the disputed grant funding had purchased arson-investigation tools, which could be used to investigate wildfires on tribal land.

The county also rejected the suggestion that interest generated by unused grant funds should be used for casino mitigation.

The report has prompted some action from the county, which on June 12 adopted a conflict of interest code for the tribal committee that distributes the grant funding. The committee previously had no conflict-of-interest rules and one of its members had not completed a requisite conflict disclosure form.

ROB DAVIS

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