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The First 5 Commission of San Diego County, which oversees tobacco tax revenues aimed at helping children in their earliest years of life, is still replacing members of its advisory committees after a Union-Tribune investigation found that the group “awarded at least $67 million in the past three years to nonprofits and other groups that employ people who serve on its top advisory committee.”

Michael Carr, the executive director of SAY San Diego, who stepped down last month from a finance advisory committee because of the new rules implemented after the investigation, according to the agenda for a commission meeting today.

The group has changed its bylaws to prevent people whose organizations receive First 5 money from sitting on advisory committees.

Carr was quoted in the Union-Tribune story in June:

Carr said he and other volunteers are aware of the potential for conflicting interests, but he noted that committee members are seated because of their expertise and they have no authority to spend money.

“It’s a question of who’s interested in this sort of public policy,” said Carr, who said he would quit the committee rather than stop delivering the services he provides with First 5 revenue.

“It’s not my sense the majority of folks on (the advisory committee) agree to spend that amount of time because of funding opportunities,” Carr said.

First 5 is now attempting to write clearer rules on conflicts of interest to prevent future problems. The commission is meeting today to discuss its long-term finances and plans.


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