Did Measure G Supporter Skim State Funds?
Attorney General wins $400,000 settlement from Roberts Family
By R.E. Graswich
A prominent supporter of Measure G, the Sacramento Children’s Fund Act on the March 3 ballot, will pay state authorities $400,000 to settle a lawsuit for allegedly taking public money from migrant housing and spending it on restaurants, hotels, taxes and other personal expenses while overcharging farmworkers for rent.
Derrell and Tina Roberts, married co-founders of the Roberts Family Development Center of North Sacramento, quietly settled a lawsuit in August filed by State Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The settlement allows the Roberts to avoid a trial.
Derrell Roberts is a leading advocate of Measure G, which would handover 2.5 percent of Sacramento’s general fund to youth service groups such as the Roberts Family Development Center.
Roberts declined to speak with Inside Sacramento. In a text message, he wrote, “I guess Measure G is losing in the polls? Dam politics.”
Measure G would divert about $12 million annually in city resources to nonprofits and youth-oriented agencies. The measure would reduce money for police, fire and parks services.
Foes of Measure G, including City Councilmembers Angelique Ashby, Larry Carr and Jeff Harris, have warned the proposal lacks accountability and transparency. They say passage could lead to situations described in allegations against the Roberts.
“Measure G is written in a way that does not guarantee transparency,” Harris says. “This is just one reason why voters should reject this ballot initiative.”
The state lawsuit and settlement came to the city’s attention in December. The revelations prompted Sacramento authorities to reconsider their longstanding relationship with Derrell and Tina Roberts.
Over the past decade, the city has paid the Roberts’ organization about $1.6 million for youth services, officials say. New proposals worth approximately $550,000 have been frozen, and the city plans to audit past dollars given to the Roberts, officials told Inside Sacramento.
The lawsuit, filed in 2017 on behalf of the California Department of Housing and Community Development, said Roberts, his wife and colleagues breached their contracts with the state, diverted funds for personal use and overcharged migrant renters at farm housing centers in the San Joaquin County communities of French Camp and Lodi.
The state contracted with the Roberts to provide property management at the migrant housing centers. When state dollars arrived, the Roberts mixed the money into personal accounts and paid for “restaurant meals in excess of $7,000, including a $5,116.15 meal in a single instance at an upscale restaurant, Ella Dining Room and Bar, in Sacramento,” the lawsuit said.
The Roberts were also accused of using farmworker housing funds to make “tax payments to the IRS in excess of $25,000,” and spending “in excess of $1,000, including expenses for hotels in Los Angeles, California and Yosemite National Park (far from the Migrant Housing Centers).”
The state alleged the Roberts overcharged migrant workers for housing deposits and “accumulated $27,110.50 in overpaid rent” from farmworkers.
The lawsuit described the Roberts Family Development Center as a “mere shell” that allowed the Roberts to mix business funds with personal accounts. The attorney general estimated the state lost $650,000 to the Roberts.
City officials plan to audit the Roberts Center and determine whether municipal funds have been comingled, skimmed or misused.
In the settlement, the Roberts agreed to pay the state $100,000 immediately and make 40 monthly payments of $7,500. The settlement did not require an admission of guilt.
R.E. Graswich can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.com.