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Greg Cox, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said this morning that the county will likely suspend a $10 million taxpayer-funded grant program next year that has been criticized as a slush fund used for rewarding supporters.

Cox said the grant funding, which allowed each supervisor to allocate $2 million to nonprofit groups throughout the county, would likely be needed to fill other budget gaps next year.

“It’s done on an annual basis when there’s surplus revenue,” he said. “I don’t think there’s going to be surplus revenue next year.”

Some supervisors have used the grant program to steer hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups that have then rewarded them with international junkets. Since 2001, Supervisor Ron Roberts has awarded $854,000 to the San Diego World Trade Center, which has sent Roberts on six Asian trade missions.

Earlier this year, the state Fair Political Practices Commission made it illegal for nonprofits such as the trade center to pay to send officials such as Roberts on international trips.

Supervisor Pam Slater-Price has also been rewarded with an international trip for her support of a local nonprofit, Mainly Mozart, which paid to send her to Austria and the Czech Republic in 2006.

More than any other supervisor, Slater-Price has used the grant program to cultivate campaign supporters. Since 2002, she has received at least $36,600 in reelection campaign donations from employees and board members of the nonprofits to which she has routed taxpayer funding.

ROB DAVIS

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