Image: barely trueStatement: “For 16 years, (Ron) Roberts has taken advantage of the taxpayer funded slush fund to curry political favors and in that time he’s given away more than $100 million of our money,” Stephen Whitburn, who is challenging Roberts for county supervisor, said in a Sept. 14 press release.

Determination: Barely True

Analysis: Roberts has been a county supervisor for 16 years, but the controversial grants program that Whitburn called a slush fund hasn’t been around that long.

Voters first elected Roberts in 1994 to represent the county’s urban core. Four years later, the supervisors created a program that gave them each $1 million to spend on nonprofits or public projects of their choosing. In 2000, they increased funding for the program so each supervisor got $2 million annually.

Altogether, each supervisor got $23 million to spend in their districts between 1999 and 2010. That means the five supervisors awarded about $115 million through the program since it started. Earlier this year, facing budget cuts, the supervisors reduced annual funding for the program to the original amount.

Whitburn and plenty of other critics call the program a slush fund, arguing that it’s used to shore up political support and prop each supervisor’s reputation in the district. The program has received considerable attention from news media and government watchdogs, in part, because the supervisors typically approved the grants without debate or oversight.

We’ve called Whitburn’s statement barely true because it overstates Roberts’ participation in the program. It started 12 years ago and Roberts only had direct say in the $23 million slice for his district. While he did vote with the rest of the board in awarding more than $100 million countywide, he didn’t make those decisions alone.

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