A couple hundred here. A few thousand there. Soon, you're at $364,000 -- and there's nobody to stop you.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors have a special power other countywide elected officials don't: the power to dole out dollars from their "personal grant program," the Marin Independent Journal reported.
On the one hand, few can find much wrong with giving money to needy arts programs, community centers, or other society-building initiatives lacking funding. On the other, the supes dish out the cash without oversight or accountability, which amounts to having a "slush fund" for "political patronage," the newspaper reported critics as saying.
So far this year, over three months' time, the supervisors have spent $74,685 out of the fund, the newspaper reported. Last year, they spent $364,000.
Supervisor Kate Sears spent the most: $26,000, the newspaper reported. Other totals: Steve Kinsey, $23,750; Judy Arnold, $15,500; Susan Adams, $5,300; and Katie Rice, $4,135.
No other Bay Area county has such a mechanism to use tax dollars at the discretion of an elected official. The supervisors approve spending of the cash on its consent agenda, which is rarely challenged politically -- but it is publicly.
"Alliances are created and favors curried by reason of such payments," said a 2001 civil grand jury report. The fund also somehow survived, while $20 million from the public budget was cut, the newspaper reported.
The Novato Youth Center has received $10,000 from two different supervisors during the first three months of the year, the newspaper reported.