Settlement scandal

The Roberts Family Development Center’s husband-wife founders say they’re being attacked for their support of Measure G, but dispute with California housing agency goes back to 2015

This story has been expanded from its print version.

A respected north Sacramento nonprofit will fork over $400,000 to the state, which accused it of siphoning twice that amount while operating migrant housing centers in San Joaquin County five years ago.

The husband-wife founders of the Roberts Family Development Center are linking news of their legal settlement to their support of a March 3 ballot measure to steer city funding toward youth programs.

According to the August 2019 settlement agreement, Derrell and Tina Roberts denied wrongdoing and instead accused the state of breaching its obligations under a contract that ended Dec. 31, 2015. The state says something very different.

It was in August 2014 that the Roberts, whose Del Paso Heights-based nonprofit specializes in after-school programs, entered into an agreement with the California Department of Housing and Community Development to manage three seasonal housing sites for migrant farm workers and their families, all in San Joaquin County. These temporary housing sites, which the state builds, provide 2-4-bedroom apartments, called “centers,” plus on-site daycare, summer school and counseling during the harvest season.

The state outsources the operation and maintenance of these complexes to local housing authorities or nonprofits. The Roberts Center secured two contracts to manage three sites—one in Lodi, two in French Camp—in August 2014. The state says it fronted $1.36 million to the Roberts Center for capital improvements, but that only $187,000 was spent. The state says the Roberts Center never paid back everything it owed.

According to the state’s breach of contract lawsuit, the Roberts Center’s bank statements and Derrell Roberts’ own admissions indicated that he and his wife misappropriated money for migrant housing and spent it on personal expenses. The state says the Roberts Center failed to properly account “for over $800,000 in reserve funds, operating funds, rent and security deposits, and other revenue” it collected.

In their statement, Derrell and Tina Roberts say they have been “subjected to false politically motivated and defamatory attacks” that “have been contrived by taking select allegations out of context from the documents of a recently settled lawsuit.”

The statement didn’t say to what it was referring, but Inside Sacramento posted a Feb. 3 article by former Sacramento Bee reporter and Kevin Johnson adviser R.E. Graswich under the headline “Did Measure G Supporter Skim State Funds?”

The Roberts added they are cooperating with a city audit of their nonprofit’s finances. Publicly available IRS filings show the Roberts Center’s reported assets dipped from $2.9 million in 2015, the final year of the state contract, to $546,000 in 2017.

Much of the Roberts’ statement focused on Measure G, which would steer 2.5% of the city’s budget toward community programs for youth if approved by voters next month.

“These services can be provided by a school district, a qualified non-profit or even a city department,” the Roberts wrote. “The political season is upon us and because polls are showing Measure G is winning, we can expect other dirty tricks by unscrupulous opponents.”